So there seem to be 3 camps of people when it comes to the Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical – Those who are obsessed with it, those who have friends who are obsessed – or they’ve kind of heard about it, but haven’t really checked it out, and those who are still in the dark. I’m Parker – I belong to that first group, and I’m here to clear up some of the mystery behind Hamilton’s popularity.
Maybe you’re trying to figure out who this Lin-Manuel Miranda guy is – he’s been popping up on The Tonight Show, Drunk History, Carpool Karaoke, Inside Amy Schumer – and EVERYONE SEEMS TO KNOW WHO HE IS. Because never in the history of Broadway theater has a musical crossed into the mainstream in the way that Hamilton has! Not even Cats, although it probably came the closest.
So, let’s start at the beginning – literally. This is the first song Lin wrote after reading an Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow. He took it to an open mic night at the White House in 2009, where he debuted it for President Obama and the First Lady – and sang all the roles himself.
Skip ahead to now, and the brand new Hamilton Mixtape. Produced by Questlove of The Roots, the disc features covers from some of the biggest names in hip hop and r&b, along with re-imagined songs from the show and a few tracks inspired by the musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda talked to Complex News about how he actually started writing with a mixtape in mind, and had to kind of work his way back around to it.
One track on the Hamilton Mixtape that stands out – for better or for worse – is Jimmy Fallon‘s cover of You’ll Be Back, a song performed by King George in the play. Jonathon Groff, the actor who plays the king, joined him on The Tonight Show.
So in King George, we see a character who was technically THE villain of the era, portrayed as kind of comic relief. And the character who you might think is the villain of the show… but it’s not that simple. Aaron Burr is a flawed character, for sure, but Hamilton gives us some insight into his personality and motivations. And the actor who plays Burr, Leslie Odom Jr., is one of the standout stars of the show.
Off topic for a second, but while we’re talking about Leslie Odom Jr. (did I mention he has a new Christmas album out?) here’s a super cool original song he performed for This American Life, written from the point of view of President Obama as he leaves office.
OK, one more – click here to hear Leslie covering Selena Gomez‘s “Good For You”.
So, chances are, you were introduced to Hamilton through one of two televised performances; they appeared on the 2016 Grammy Awards with the opening song from the show.
Another one of the qualities that really brought Hamilton to the mainstream are all of the hip hop references woven throughout the show. One of the stars, Daveed Diggs, talked to The Wall Street Journal about those references and the intricate rhyme schemes found in Hamilton’s raps.
By the way, Daveed is known as the fastest rapper on Broadway. He REALLY showed off on Fallon.