(Soloski’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/24.)
At this point it’s almost embarrassing to devote any more ink or pixels to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s triumphant musical. A scrupulous history of America’s sexiest founding father, Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s piece makes Federalism scintillating, restoring the radicalism of America’s birth and radicalising Broadway a little, too. This is a show both theatrically exhilarating and politically necessary.
The script and songs recontextualise the revolutionary war as a battle fought by a scrappy band of immigrants, an important corrective considering so much of the Republican rhetoric now circulating. Miranda uses the vernacular of the streets and of Broadway, too, crafting a musical language of rap, R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock, the American songbook and show tunes. Stephen Sondheim is a fan. So is Questlove. So is everyone else.
It’s marvelous to experience a show this smart and this populist at the same time. Miranda is a bona fide genius (he has the MacArthur grant to prove it). His lyrics distil a remarkable amount of American history and he isn’t afraid to go full wonk, particularly in the second act, with its cabinet meetings staged as rap battles and its attention to The Federalist Papers. But the jokes, sick beats, and propulsive energy of the show will please even those who don’t know much about history and don’t care to. And good luck getting through the final scene without sobbing into your Playbill.
The wildly talented cast is of mixed ethnicity and this is sadly rare on Broadway, where even when diversity does arrive, it does so in limited niches – African Americans in The Color Purple, Asian Americans in Allegiance, Hispanic Americans in On Your Feet! Hamilton doesn’t traffic in such categories and it shows that a good story very well told will appeal to a wide range of ticket buyers, regardless of race. If there is justice on Broadway (a debatable proposition), producers will take note. Read the review