Updated: Apr 4, 2020
By: Stephen J. Frias
It was over Indian food in Bed-Stuy when I first heard about “Hamilton.” My girlfriend & I were having dinner with some friends & someone brought it up, “Have you heard the Hamilton soundtrack? I need to get tickets.” That question & refrain followed me for months. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t pay any mind to it at first. I didn’t even connect that the same guy who wrote this, also wrote “In the Heights.” I was late to the Hamilton party, but when I finally got around to listening to the soundtrack I found myself entirely obsessed. I would play it from start to finish everyday. Disc one on the way to work, disc two at work, then all of it together at home. I had almost no experience with musicals or broadway (save for the plays I did in high school), but this here, this two & half hour retelling of Alexander Hamilton’s life, had somehow rooted itself into me. It had everything I needed. People of color rapping & singing to most compelling of stories I’ve ever heard. I know, I know, can I be dramatic? Can I be more excessive? Yes, but later. Anyway, I knew I needed to see it. By then tickets were already fairly hard to come by. Resellers were out here destroying any sense of financial security & sanity. Yet, somehow someway, I got tickets, & it might have been one of the best decisions I ever made. Below is a mini-deconstruction of Miranda, his “Hamilton” cronies, & what all of this means for us.
The Man: For those of who for some reason don’t know about Lin-Manuel Miranda, I mean, I don’t know how best to explain him, really. Lin-Manuel “the platano fantastic in a petticoat, mr. steal ya girl in knee-high socks, the verdugo of verses, the gawd” Miranda, is the Puerto Rican, Wash Heights-born creator of “In the Heights,” & most recently, “Hamilton.” All that said, odds are you know who I’m talking about. Odds are you know that the phrase, “look at god working,” can be attributed to just about anything this man does. Odds are you know that Hip-Hop is the most popping genre of music right now, especially with the way “Hamilton” has taken over Broadway. “Hamilton” is the retelling of Alexander Hamilton’s life, done entirely in verse. Miranda is the genius (literally, a genius—shout out to the MacArthur grant) behind it. But again, odds are you know all this because “Hamilton” has had it’s foot on every Broadway shows’ neck for the longest time now. It’s half-crazy, but also entirely legitimate how fast Miranda has become this hero of sorts, not only in the theater world, but in culture. This is a guy with the most humble of beginnings who now has some of the dopest accomplishments under his belt, from his debut award-winning “In the Heights,” to meeting President Obama, & now with the most popping ever of all time all time, not at all exaggerated, musical. It’s already won a Grammy & will undoubtedly win the Tony this year. Bless up.
The Cast: *Note: Before I get into how awesome the cast is, I just need to read a few people, mainly that lawyer (whom shall not be named because no publicity here, fam) who tried to claim that the Hamilton casting call was racist & illegal. Not only is equating “seeking non-white” to “no white people” semantically wrong, it’s also the same argument for you all-lives matter proclaimers. White people really hate not being involved when POCs are flourishing.
I digress though, because this cast deserves all the spotlight. They’ve brought so much life to these characters. I’m gonna just go down the line & pull out some highlights (They all deserve shine & love though, not just the few I pointed out. Go listen to the soundtrack. I can’t stress this enough!):
Leslie “My god he has the voice of an angel” Odom Jr.: My guy here might be more important that Hamilton himself. He plays Aaron Burr (sir!), but more importantly he’s the narrator of the musical. In so many ways, this is also his story, which we find is so much more than just “the guy who kills Hamilton.” He also has my favorite songs in the entire production, “Dear Theodosia,” “Wait for it,” & “Non-Stop.” Heads up, you might break out into tears listening to “Dear Theodosia” & “Wait for it,” that’s normal. Just let them flow. And “Non-Stop” is the funnest song ever. If you don’t break out in dance you’re probably possessed by a body snatcher & you should probably relieve yourself of that.
Daveed “Hair laid like the bible” Diggs: Everyone loves Daveed. This isn’t opinion, it’s just fact. His presence on stage is remarkable. He also has a dual role as the Marquis de Lafayette (who he raps as in a French accent) & Thomas Jefferson. In both roles there are copious amounts of shimmying, dabbing & just blatant swagger. He’s cooler than us. This, too, is also a fact. Songs that he kicks ass on, “Washington on Your Side,” “Guns and Ships,” both cabinet battles #1 & #2. *Note, “Washington on Your Side” has probably the best verses in the whole musical from Daveed. You might also start aligning yourself with “Southern mother fucking Democratic Republicans” after hearing this song.
Renee Elise “Coming for all your wigs” Goldberry: Renee plays Angelica Schuyler. She also plays Remy Ma & Nicki during the show. I know, crazy, right… She also holds the title for “How many times can you make Stephen cry?” as well as, “Song you cannot play while driving because tears impede on your vision,” with her song I recommend, “Satisfied.” The way she can transition from rapping to singing is a sight to see. Oh, also, go listen to “The Schuyler Sisters,” which leads perfectly to this last spotlight.
Phillipa “Killing you softly” Soo: Phillipa plays Elizabeth Schuyler, Hamilton’s wife. She’s also the greatest ride or die chick of all time, while also being the best technical singer in the cast. Her range is pretty amazing. Two songs you check out: “Helpless” is another one of those just blatantly fun songs that you need to dance to, it’s also disgustingly adorable & full of feels; “Burn,” is also full of feels, but the kind of feels that kind of make you want just curl up in a ball. Between every breath she took, all you heard were people sobbing & sniffling. I’m pretty sure this is my girl’s favorite song. *Note to self: throw all of our matches out. In all seriousness though, the recording doesn’t even remotely do her voice justice.
Shout out to some of the other dope actors: Chris “BAMF” Jackson playing George Washington, Anthony “Mr. Utilities” Ramos playing John Laurens & Phillip Hamilton, Okieriete “Bussa Buss” Onaodowan playing Hercules Mulligan & James Madison, Jasmin Cephas “Mrs. Steal your man” Jones playing Peggy Schuyler & Maria Reynolds, Jonathan “He’s literally King George” Groff playing King George.
The Importance of “Hamilton”:
I alluded to this earlier, but this musical really means the most right now. In this time period, with #BlackLivesMatter, Donald Trump, so many of the other injustices POCs are facing, this right here is everything. What Miranda, a POC from New York, created will be held up with some of the greatest pieces of art & we are at the center of it! Yes, it is a story of Alexander Hamilton, but it’s also our story & our parents’ story. It’s the immigrant story. The kind of story we can tell our kids about. Like in a weird way every one of the characters & actors playing them, is a hero, whether it’s an immigrant like Hamilton willing himself to greatness, Elizabeth Schuyler further continuing his work & creating the first orphanage in New York, or Lin-Manuel Miranda & wonderful cast of color around him that brought this story to life. Think about that. This is arguably the greatest musical of all time, surely the most popular considering how much tickets are going for. And here we are, “young, scrappy, & hungry,” & we “[can’t] throw away [this] shot.”