You’ve read this article carefully and done your research. You know exactly which seats you want and scored some coveted tickets to the hottest musical around. Now: do your homework!
“Hamilton” is more than a show; it’s an experience. Not an interactive one – you won’t be called on to participate, nor will the performers come out and hassle you – but you need to know more than the basic story of Alexander Hamilton’s life in order to get the most out of the live show. The songs move so quickly you can easily get lost trying to understand what the actors are singing/rapping, and some songs carry the show through several years of Hamilton’s life in the span of mere minutes. Since history already tells us how Hamilton’s life ends, there will be no spoilers in preparing as best you can before you get to be in the Room Where It Happens.
Hamilton: The Book(s)
Before Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a single note of his Tony-winning epic musical, he picked up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography, “Alexander Hamilton.” Even in paperback, this book weighs in at a door-stopping 832 pages. It is not light reading; nor is it required to enjoy the Broadway musical. But for those history buffs who want to know the real deal behind America’s “ten-dollar Founding Father” in minute detail, or for musical theater enthusiasts who need the source material to enjoy the adaptations, it’s the book that got the ball rolling.
Need something a little bit lighter? In 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter published “Hamilton: The Revolution,” chronicling the history of the instant-classic musical show from Miranda’s inspiration to a historic performance for President Barack Obama. The book – which, so far, is only available in hardcover, as an ebook, an Audible audiobook, or a CD – contains the show’s entire libretto with notes in the margins from Miranda himself. Merging the show’s history with the musical numbers, the book gives readers all the “Hamilton” they can possibly digest, including short biographies on each of the original cast members and how they came to be part of the story, brief looks into the show’s staging, costumes, choreography, and music, and insight into how the life of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury became an unlikely topic for a Broadway smash hit featuring a diverse cast and rap battles.
Hamilton: The Music
If you do nothing else before going to a live performance of “Hamilton: An American Musical,” listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording. Then listen to it again. It will not detract from your experience at the live show.
Because “Hamilton” is written like an opera, with very little dialogue, you can hear nearly the entire show in the OBCR. From King George’s Brit-Pop prancing to the cabinet rap battles between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the OBCR is Miranda at his Shakespearean best. Listening to the songs first will allow you to relax when you sit in those seats you paid handsomely for because you won’t get left behind trying to decipher the energetic, lightning-paced lyrics to the songs. Instead, you’ll enjoy the show even more because you’ll be able to follow, word for word, exactly what each character is singing. Or rapping. Or prancing.
Hamilton: The Cultural Zeitgeist
“Hamilton: An American Musical” has sparked the imagination of countless podcasters, tv producers, and writers. Among the bonus material for “Hamilton” you can find online and on television are:
- The PBS Great Performances documentary, “Hamilton’s America” (pbs.org)
- A PBS Broadway Sandwich episode dedicated to “Kinky Boots” and “Hamilton” (pbs.org)
- A “Hamilton: An American Musical” episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast (November 4, 2016)
- “The Room Where It’s Happening” fan podcast available at earwolf.com
- “Hamilton: The Podcast” made by two fans who love the OBCR but have never seen the show (soundcloud.com)
- The Broadwaycom channel on YouTube, which includes behind-the-scenes interviews, opening night footage, and Leslie Odom, Jr.’s “Aaron Burr, Sir” series that takes you backstage
- An entire “Hamilton” channel on YouTube
Now that you’re out of excuses for not keeping up, don’t throw away your shot! Become part of American history with “Hamilton: An American Musical,” now playing!