For the last several weeks, I’ve been listening to the new musical Hamilton fairly often at work, via streaming on the NPR Music app. Or so I thought, anyway. I’d bop my head along through the songs (can’t sing at the office), finishing up at the end of the Revolutionary War, which I thought was the end of the show.
Because of the way the app is set up, there was no track listing — I just listened from beginning to end, and it dawned on me while talking to my colleague Priya about which songs I liked that I didn’t actually know what they were called. So, this weekend I decide to look up the song listing and match the tunes I liked to their titles.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had only been listening to Act One all this time!
I didn’t know at first whether to be annoyed that I had only heard half the show or excited that there was more to discover. I quickly came down on the latter side of that equation, even though Act Two made me cry. Several times. (I mean, I’m a history nerd. I know how Alexander Hamilton’s story turns out, and therefore wasn’t really expecting it to have such an emotional impact.)
There is so much I love about this show, before even seeing it staged. I love that the music is so varied — tons of hip hop and R&B influence, alongside traditional showtunes. I love that has a multi-racial cast, irrespective of the actual race of the historical figures. (It adds layers to the songs that touch on slavery, just for starters.) And of course, I love that it’s a (reasonably) accurate depiction of the life of an actual figure from history.
I think the things I love most, though, are the way it digs into Hamilton’s life as a writer (“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” is a recurring motif, and his prolific output is referenced frequently) and the fact that it’s impossible to know how the political sausage is made — because we’re not all in “the room where it happens.” The writing and political machinations come together as a riff on the creation of the first draft of history, with a wink to how, 225-ish years later, the story that remains is, Hamilton: Hero; Burr: Villain. (“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” indeed.)
It’ll probably be a year or more before there are enough tickets available for me to get to see this live, but I have no doubt it will be worth the wait. And in the meantime, here’s the Spotify embed for your listening pleasure:
Oh, and there may be more thoughts on Hamilton over time. I’ve only listened to Act Two a couple of times at this point, and the full show only once…