By now, you have celebrated our country, and are probably hungover from the festivities, but have you turned on Disney+ and watched Hamilton yet?
Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s opus homage to one of America’s founding fathers, arch rival to Thomas Jefferson, and shaper of our political party system — and the U.S. Treasury — is easily one of the most popular streaming programs out today. The House of the Mouse produced the live taping of the play and it is absolutely stellar. If you haven’t seen it on stage, this is definitely a close second.
This is one of the most popular musicals of all time, and in only five short years, it has captured the imagination of the world — musical fan or not. The soundtrack consists of various music genres. The ensemble is as diverse as the country it represents. Tickets are priced as high as $400 in the back row of the highest balcony, and they sell out in seconds. It has grossed more than $85 million and there’s no stopping its success once COVID-19 is manageable or vaccinated.
But even history enthusiasts may have missed a few poignant and peculiar facts about the Independence Day Weekend viewing. Alexander Hamilton was a misunderstood leader and one plagued with misfortune, even in the midst of his fame and notoriety.
If you’re a fan of the glorious musical, you could say instead of #ICYMI, maybe “What’d I Miss?“
Here are the Top 15 Fun Facts about Hamilton.
15. “History Has Its Eyes On You”
Here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda on vacation in Mexico. He decided to pry open a book he had been jonesin’ to read, an 832-page biography on Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (2004). And then, a life-changing thought hit him:
“I was like, This is an album—no, this is a show. How has no one done this? It was the fact that Hamilton wrote his way off the island where he grew up. That’s the hip-hop narrative. So I Googled ‘Alexander Hamilton hip-hop musical’ and totally expected to see that someone had already written it. But no. So I got to work.”Lin-Manuel Miranda, Vogue, June 2015
14. “What Comes Next”
If you are a Broadway star, or even an aspiring one, ‘Les Miserables’ has inspired you in some fashion. From the stage to the screen, ‘Les Mis’ began people thinking of another way to do theater — morose, dark, and a stark depiction of life around you. Lin-Manuel Miranda is no different as ‘Les Miserables’ is one of his all-time favorites and some of its influence can be seen in ‘Hamilton’.
The things that you can see in Hamilton that are affecting people are also present in Les Mis. One, it’s trying to capture so much of the human experience that even if we fall short, we’ve got a lot of it. I mean, Les Misérables starts in prison. It’s ‘Look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.’ And then it goes up from there.Lin-Manuel Miranda, Grantland, Sept. 2015
13. “Non Stop”
If you were watching ‘Hamilton’, you may notice something strange, even for a musical — there are no spoken words. No dialogue. In its two hours and 40 minutes of captivating stage work and whimsical writing, there are 47 songs. Some melodious and pitch-perfect singing. Others, street poetry of the type that would make poets like Nas and Tupac proud.
The only other musicals that are completely done in song are ‘Cats’, ‘Evita’, and ‘Rent’. That’s it.
12. “Take a Break”
If you like metrics, you have been to FiveThirtyEight.com. The empirical eggheads at this fantastic website determined if ‘Hamilton’ had been performed like a regular musical with words, plot builds, and then songs, it would have “lasted four to six hours.” Why?
It is one of the most verbose and loquacious theatrical productions in history, including Daveed Diggs thunderous rap at 6.3 words per second (seen above)! In all, ‘Hamilton’ has a remarkable 20,520 words — all sung at a rate of 144 words per minute.
11. “Blow Us All Away”
Maybe you have seen the marketing muscle of ‘Hamilton’ in bookstores or big box places. One thing you may have seen — or purchased — was “The Hamilton Mixtape.”
It is dope with artists like Common, The Roots, John Legend, Busta Rhymes, Big Pun, Eminem, and Rakim. Aside from this mixtape having “the lyrics to have the density that [Lin-Miranda Manuel’s] favorite hip-hop albums have,” the musical was supposed to start this way — as a mixtape. Think The Who’s “Tommy” or “Quadrophenia.”
I always had an eye toward the stage for the story of Hamilton’s life, but I began with the idea of a concept album, the way Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar were albums before they were musicals.Lin-Manuel Miranda, The Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 2015
10. “Alexander Hamilton”
The music is mesmerizing. The acting is phenomenal. But the history is spot-on. There is nothing taken out of context. Nothing. Lin-Manuel Miranda performed a doctoral dissertation amount of research. If you listen to the lyrics carefully, every line is bathed in history — painstaking accuracy.
There wasn’t anything about Alexander Hamilton that Miranda didn’t digest. From his own mastered quill to Aaron Burr’s recollections of the dubious duel, he read it all. He even wrote part of the production at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, where George Washington once used as his personal headquarters during the Revolutionary War.
And anything he may have missed, Ron Chernow served as the historical consultant for the show. According to Smithsonian, Chernow looked at every draft and every song and assessed everything for accuracy.
9. A Winter’s Ball
Okay, okay. It wasn’t “winter.” Actually, it was in May 2009 when Lin-Manuel Miranda was asked to perform at the “White House Evening of Poetry.” Originally, he was asked to perform an excerpt from his first production “In the Heights,” of which the Obamas were fans. Instead, he opted for another thing he was working on — an early version of ‘Hamilton’ first number, which he did as Aaron Burr.
The performance was captivating, as you can see. Even the President and First Lady jumped to their feet. This was the first place where anything from ‘Hamilton’ was ever seen by the public. Check out Miranda’s introduction of the concept. His passion is intoxicating. And the piano work by Alex Lacamoire is fantastic.
8. “We Know”
As the theatrical presentation begins, you will see the stage production of ‘Hamilton’ was actually taped in 2016! So, what took so long to get here? Apparently, there wasn’t a plan to show it at all, but like the global clandestine company is known for doing, Disney hurled that tape into its fabled vault.
The abyss known for entrapping the animated classics also held one of Broadway’s most prolific recordings after they purchased the rights for $75 million, as shared by The New York Times.
In the spring of 2017, a production executive withdrew an encrypted hard drive from a Midtown Manhattan vault and boarded a flight to London.The New York Times, June 2020
7. “Say No to This”
Even the family-friendly Disney can be swayed to give an eff…bomb, that is. If you have seen ‘Hamilton’ on stage, or really dissect the lyrics of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pen, you know there are a couple of f*cks in the production. Wonder why Hamilton got a PG-13 rating on Disney+? They didn’t say no to one of the eff bombs. Yes, really. Just ask the man himself:
6. “Wait For It”
Lin-Manuel Miranda is no slouch on Broadway. He even won a Tony before this happened with his inaugural hit, ‘In the Heights.’ Still, ‘Hamilton’ was different and even Miranda knew it. The first song he wrote, which you see performed above at the White House, took a full year to create. The second song — and the musical’s greatest, “One Shot” — also took a full year.
Every couplet needed to be the best couplet I ever wrote…That’s how seriously I was taking it.Lin-Manuel Miranda, ‘60 Minutes‘, Nov. 2015
5. “I Know Him”
If you watched the performance from Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House, you’ll notice he was portraying Aaron Burr, which is now inextricably linked to Leslie Odom, Jr. It seemed in doing research about Hamilton, Miranda got engrossed in Aaron Burr’s story as well.
Odom is a powerhouse on stage, and what he did in ‘Hamilton’ is among his best work. And to think, it almost wasn’t his.
I feel an equal affinity with Burr, who is every bit as smart as Hamilton, and every bit as gifted, and he comes from the same amount of loss as Hamilton. But because of the way they are wired Burr hangs back where Hamilton charges forward. I feel like I have been Burr in my life as many times as I have been Hamilton.Lin-Manuel Miranda, The New Yorker, Feb. 2015
4. “The World Was Wide Enough”
On Broadway, you will some of the most intricate details. From ‘The Lion King’ and its profound costumes to the finite nuances found on the sets of ‘Rent.’ ‘Hamilton’ looks like it takes place in a single Colonial room, and an unfinished one at that.
This was no accident because, in Miranda’s mind, that adds to the rich symbolism and psychology of what we are watching. Everything is intentional, including the revolving center of stage which is “inspired by the whirlwind of history that sweeps up in ‘Hamilton’.
This is the story of the people who built the scaffolding upon which the country was built, so you see wooden period scaffolding up around a half-made wall to show a kind of aspirational space.David Korins, ‘Hamilton’ Set Designer, Washington Post, May 2018
And see and hear it for yourself here… really cool.
3. “The Room Where It Happens”
How and where inspiration strikes is always fascinating to most creatives. I love reading about that kind of stuff. Manuel’s process for ‘Hamilton’ was a little backward than most would consider. Apparently, he would write the melody first, go for a jaunt through New York until inspiration hit for the lyrics.
For Hamilton, what I’d do is write at the piano until I had something I liked. I’d make a loop of it and put it in my headphones and then walk around until I had the lyrics. That’s where the notebooks come in, sort of write what comes to me, bring it back to the piano. I kind of need to be ambulatory to write lyrics.Lin-Manuel Miranda, Smithsonian, Nov. 2015
2. “Ten Duel Commandments”
He raised his gun and *BOOM* goes the dynamite, so to speak. Although the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr (yeah, dude was in office when this happened) is noted throughout the annals of history, Hamilton was no stranger to a duel.
In fact, throughout his political rise to infamy, Hamilton was in a suggested 10 duels with other politicos, including John Adams and James Monroe (both past and future presidents). You’ll note Hamilton singing about a gentlemen’s way to end a duel — without a direct shot.
Well, Aaron Burr didn’t want to waste his shot either.
1. “My Shot”
All works of art have a chance to leave a legacy — something that will outlive it, a focalpoint in time that will stick when the play moves on. ‘Hamilton’ has a shot at that (pun intended), one it didn’t miss. For those who weren’t aware, Eliza Hamilton created the first private orphanage in New York City in memory of her slain husband in 1808.
The name of that orphanage is Graham Windham, and it’s still open today. Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda wouldn’t do anything to deter attention from something that would benefit others, so an undisclosed amount of proceeds of its $600,000 per week box office earnings go to the orphanage to keep it thriving.
Philanthropy is part of the DNA of the musical itself. Hamilton ends not with the duel or the death of its namesake and grief of his family, but with each actor’s tribute to the contribution their character made—or hoped to make—to society.Town & Country Magazine, Caroline Halleman, June 2016
According to Adoption.com, there are 15 million orphans in the United States — no parents, no care, no forwarding address, nothing. Victims of the system of it weren’t for the outstanding work of a few thousand people who care. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone has a shot.
And thanks to ‘Hamilton,’ some kids will still have ammo for a single shot of their own.
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