The musical that became a national phenomenon has hit San Francisco's Orpheum Theater, opens a new window!
While it turns out tickets for the San Francisco Hamilton are just as hard to get as they were in New York, there are plenty of articles, albums, documentaries, and books about Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop musical Hamilton to tide you over while you wait. Hamilton chronicles the life of the ten-dollar founding father Alexander Hamilton by fusing hip-hop, jazz, and other modes of musical expression to create the sound of what has become the biggest Broadway sensation since Les Misérables.
Fresh off the success of his first Broadway hit In the Heights, Miranda read Ron Chernow's biography of Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, and found a story ripe for a hip-hop epic: an immigrant orphan from the Caribbean makes his way to America, gets an education and gains the support of George Washington during the revolutionary war, and eventually goes on to create enduring American financial and political institutions until he was gunned down at the tender young age of 47 by political rival and onetime friend, Aaron Burr.
Enthralled by the relevance of Hamilton's story to modern American life, Miranda decided to create a concept album about Hamilton. During a special event at the White House, Miranda performed what would evolve to be Hamilton's opening number in front of the Obamas.
After his White House appearance, Miranda developed his ideas for the album into a full-fledged musical with the help of an incredible coterie of musical and theatrical talent, along the way incorporating traditional Broadway tunes, jazz, British rock, R&B, and a variety of hip-hop styles both classic and modern. There are wonderful essays and anecdotes about this development process in the beautifully bound book Hamilton: The Revolution, which is packed with behind the scenes info on the production and printed lyrics annotated with liner notes by Miranda.
At the end of the day, the music is what makes Hamilton such an energizing and special production. Even if you never plan to attend a performance, give the original Broadway cast recording a spin if you like any of the musical genres mentioned above. Every track is catchy and original in a different way: Hamilton and Jefferson have a rap-off in "Cabinet Battle", "The Schuyler Sisters" has a catchy pop hook, and reggae and jazz abound in one of my personal favorite songs, "Non-stop." You can place a hold on the physical album or borrow it from our streaming service at hoopla digital, opens a new window (you can register free at hoopla with any library card beginning with "29041," "29044," "29045," or "29047").
The original Broadway cast that you hear on the album is an extraordinarily talented group of people. Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, has released his own album titled simply Leslie Odom Jr. where he sings lounge jazz songs in his amazingly potent voice. The diversity of the cast in a play about the founding fathers is another remarkable aspect of Hamilton that makes the show so appealing; seeing figures like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington played by a multiracial cast reflects some of the larger themes of the play.
Hamilton has also made its way into the pop music scene as well. Questlove of The Roots was an early supporter of the show and now popular recording artists like Sia, The Roots, Queen Latifah, Usher, and Jill Scott have collaborated on a remix of favorite Hamilton tracks called The Hamilton Mixtape.
What have been your experiences with Hamilton? Have you been following the musical since the beginning? Wondering what all the fuss is about? Have you been able to get tickets? Share your Hamilton stories or any other thoughts you have in the comments section below.