Lin Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton" musical

The Cultural Legacy of ‘Hamilton’ Is Starting to Take Shape

Almost three years after the musical premiered, the ways it has forever changed the landscape of theatre are starting to make themselves apparent.

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Lin Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton" musical

Almost three years after the musical premiered, the ways it has forever changed the landscape of theatre are starting to make themselves apparent.

For those who have managed to miss the “Hamilton” craze that’s been happening for almost three years now, “Hamilton” is an award-winning Broadway musical written and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda that debuted in 2015 and uses rap to tell the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and major author of the Federalist papers, both of which shaped how the American government runs today. He also served as the United States’ first secretary of the treasury. The life of Alexander Hamilton is admittedly the last thing one would think to base a play on, but musical creator Miranda pulled it off.

The Cultural Impact of “Hamilton”

There is no denying that “Hamilton” put Alexander Hamilton back into the pages of our history books. Prior to the debut of the rap musical, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced that he would choose a woman for the new ten dollar bill. The idea was to replace Alexander Hamilton, of whom little was publicly known at the time, with Harriet Tubman, a black woman who fought against slavery and served on the Union side during the American Civil War.

Public opinion on this replacement changed as the unique musical rose in popularity. Now, the plan is to swap Tubman’s image in for former President Andrew Jackson’s, who caused the deaths of thousands of Native Americans, a switch that highlights the tremendous cultural impact Miranda’s musical has had in the couple of years since it first debuted.

Image via Chicago Tribune

In addition to popularizing the historical figure, the play also made waves for the strides it made in terms of racial representation. “Hamilton” tells the story of American historical figures who were white, as it’s common knowledge that there were no Founding Fathers that were people of color. Despite this glaringly obvious fact, a majority of the cast are people of color. Leslie Odom Jr., who happens to be a black man, was the first to portray Aaron Burr in the Broadway production. The call for non-white actors to perform in this historical musical is far from an act of reverse racism.

The casting for the show is meant to represent the retelling of the life of one of the founders of the United States through a cast whose appearances reflect what Americans look like today. “Hamilton” is important because it gives POC actors who would otherwise likely only be able to get a role in “The Lion King” a chance to shine. Not only does “Hamilton” provide work for actors of color, the musical, as a result of its widespread popularity, has extended racial representation in the theatre, allowing for thousands of minority audience members to witness someone who looks like them achieving artistic acclaim, and by playing a white historical figure no less.

If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming that you either were a fan of the musical or have become one. If so, here are five things you should do to take your fandom to the next level.

5. Get Yourself Some Merch!

Thanks to websites such as Etsy and Redbubble, just to name a few, “Hamilton” fans can buy almost anything “Hamilton” related; whether it be a sticker for your laptop that reads one of your favorite song lyrics from the musical, or a replica  of the dress “Hamilton” character Eliza Schuyler wears in the musical.

Whether you’re new to the fandom and just want something small, or you’re a die-hard fan and you want to dress up as your favorite character, the right merchandise is out there for you.

4. Buy and Listen to the “Hamilton Mixtape”

The “Hamilton Mixtape” is a mixtape released in 2016 that features an assortment of songs from the original Broadway play that are sung by a variety of popular artists. You can listen to song from the mixtape here.

Don’t be mistaken, the mixtape isn’t simply karaoke versions of the original songs from the musical; the tracks have been rewritten to appeal to a more general audience. For example, some people might not go see a musical, but they will listen to a song sung by Usher. The mixtape even features a couple of songs that were cut from the play, such as “Congratulations” and “Cabinet Battle 3.”

Image via Vulture

3. Participate in Ham4Ham!

If you happen to live or be in New York City, you may be interested in participating in Ham4Ham, a lottery that, for a $10 entrance fee, gives participants a chance to win tickets to that night’s performance of the show. Why ten dollars? Well because the face on the bill is the face of the historical Alexander Hamilton.

Ham4Ham isn’t just a lottery; it’s a show before the show. Even if you don’t plan on entering the raffle, you can go to the Richard Rogers theater and catch cast members reciting a song. If you’re interested, you can watch a number of the Ham4Ham performances with the original cast here.

2. Download the Original Cast Recording 

If you are a fan of “Hamilton,” there is a good chance you’ve already listened to the entirety of the original cast recording. If you haven’t, but want to, the original recording of the musical is available for purchase on Apple iTunes for $19.99. If you aren’t interested in spending money, the complete cast recording can be conveniently found on YouTube free of charge for your listening pleasure.

1. Go See a Production of “Hamilton”!

Tickets to “Hamilton” are notoriously hard to get. However, the original cast has finished their run and may be coming to a city near you. If any readers out there are interested in seeing the musical, but don’t live anywhere near London, Chicago or New York City, where the musical is being shown, don’t fear. Starting this year and continuing into 2019, “Hamilton” will be on tour throughout the United States and is bound to continue expanding across the world.

In the mere two-and-a-half years since the premiere on Broadway, the musical has received critical acclaim worldwide and has already begun production in another country. There’s no telling where “Hamilton” could be showing in the next two years alone.

Writer Profile

Grace Marie Hancock

Florida State University

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