Why I’m Not Obsessed with Hamilton
It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway. It snagged a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations and produced the highest selling cast album since 2011. It’s a show so huge, it promises to entertain only full house theaters for at least the next three years. Some call it revolutionary (pun intended), and some, like me, call it hype.
Welcome to the era of Hamilton: An American Musical.
If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the new musical sensation that has swept, quite literally, across the country. The show debuted in February of 2015 to a sold out run at the Public Theater, and later transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway, where it received unparalleled acclaim. Audiences were enraptured, critics amazed. Everything was lauded, from the sets and costumes, to the progressiveness in casting, to the sheer brilliance of the show’s fearless leader, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
It’s no wonder that almost everyone who has heard of the musical is diagnosable with “Hamilton fever.” All it takes is a few seconds of a song, a catchy line, and a proverbial shout with the name of a vaguely familiar historical player (Lafayette!), and you’re hooked.
Why then, you may ask, have I not succumbed to the cult?
For starters, I haven’t seen Hamilton yet. Most people haven’t. And I am disinclined to swear and live by a musical that I haven’t even seen. If people can be obsessed without even seeing it, then I can be the opposite. Of course, one can technically become familiar and “obsessed” through YouTube videos and clips, but that brings me to my next point.
I am no stranger to Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Let me paint a picture for you. It was the generation of Britney Spears and auto-tune. Enter me, a young, theatre-obsessed teen trying to find herself amidst the pop, techno-remixed noise that characterized her generation. I first heard about Lin-Manuel Miranda while listening to what I usually listened to in the car: the Broadway Station on Sirius XM radio. Out of the blue, a song from his first Tony award-winning musical, In the Heights, came on, and changed my idea of what a musical could be.
I loved it. It had a unique sound like something I had never heard before. It was a blend of pop and rap, yet it was still characterized by the impressive vocals of a classic show tune.
I guess you could say I fell in love like a child does, prematurely. I listened to the whole cast recording, I watched interviews with the creators, I watched illegally recorded videos of the Broadway production. But I didn’t have an army of crazed fans backing me up. Sure, In the Heights was popular in its time, but it was no take-out-a-third-mortgage-on-your-house-for-tickets popular.
I guess a part of me feels like I got there first, before it was cool. I was always in awe of Miranda’s talent and I’d been a devoted Broadway loyalist through and through. For many people who became obsessed with Hamilton, it was because they had never been exposed to that type of music before, like I had been. They had never really given Broadway a chance.
There is no denying the originality of Hamilton. Aside from its aesthetic beauty, Hamilton breaks beyond the scope of classical theatre. Hamilton tells an ancient story in a modern way, and raises the bar for entertainment and education.
But I guess I’m also not obsessed with Hamilton because I know there are so many other shows that are also groundbreaking in different ways, and they deserve at least half of the recognition that Hamilton gets. And for those brilliant, yet unfortunately timed shows that opened last season with Hamilton, my heart breaks.
So no, I am not obsessed with Hamilton. I won’t memorize every line of every song, and I won’t be seen holding a twelve-hundred-page biography of our founding fathers. That’s not to say I won’t include Hamilton in my daily entries for the online Broadway lottery. Or I won’t still be mildly disappointed when I lose.
It is Lin-Manuel Miranda, after all.