My Life, Reviews, Theatre

Hamilton the Musical (2020) Guest Review

Hamilton is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed musicals of the past decade. It has won 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is written by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also plays as the titular character (and as the character Lee Scorseby in His Dark Materials). In 2020, the musical was recorded and put on the streaming service, Disney+. Without this, I would probably never have gotten the chance to watch it.

Of course, you will probably also be able to watch it on stage but I can’t imagine anyone other than Lin-Manuel Miranda and Johnathan Groff playing their roles.

What is Hamilton About?

Hamilton is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers. It follows Hamilton’s journey from his early days in the Caribbean to his rise as a prominent figure in American history. It is set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and uses hip-hop and rap to tell the story.

Now, if you do not like hip-hop and rap, neither do I. Yet, I will happily play Hamilton on loop all day long. If you want to know whether the music will be a problem for you, play one or two of the songs on a music-playing platform of your choice.

The opening of the play explains the story somewhat before it begins within the first song Alexander Hamilton. Which, as you might guess, is about the protagonist. A sort of summary that lets the viewer know what to expect. In short, we know that Hamilton helped found America, created the constitution, and what happened to him by the end of the first song.

Does that ruin the musical?

Not in the slightest! The engaging part of the play is – how and why it happened, possibly because Americans know it from their own history books anyway. It’d be like us watching a play on the life of Henry VIII. We all know what happened to him. The most intriguing part is the relationship dynamics, why it happened and how. The musical does this superbly!

Although Americans know the history much better than us Brits, the story is played out so that those who didn’t know of Alexander Hamilton before hand are not lost, which is great. Naturally, we are seen as one of the villains of the story… and lets be honest, we were jerks when it came to the British Empire… and other parts of history, so there’s no surprise there.

Should I watch the musical even if I heard all the songs

Yes. Although the songs are a major part of Hamilton, there is just something about seeing them act it out that you do not get from the songs. The actors, their performance and how they bring it to the stage is just so magical that you will be missing something from the songs alone.

Honestly, I still watch the theatre production and listen to the songs. Still prefer the theatre production, so it is not just a one-off watch for me. If you like musical theatre and history, it probably won’t be a one off for you either. Even those that have said they do not like musicals have said they like it, so definitely would recommend at least trying it.

Characterisation in Hamilton

The characters in Hamilton are incredibly well-drawn and nuanced. Hamilton is portrayed as an ambitious and driven man who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals… if we were talking Hogwarts Legacy houses, he’d be a Slytherin.

What I loved is that, although Alexander Hamilton is seen as one of the founding fathers, the musical does not shy away from admitting he was in no way a perfect man. A couple of the songs tell how he ruined his career through adultery [and admitted it publically]. *Shakes head at Hamilton*

Honestly, his wife, Eliza, is amazing. You don’t get much of her characterisation, but that… in itself… is her characterisation. Once she read about the adultery, she essentially disappeared, keeping no record of what she was doing until the death of one of their sons! Despite the obvious hurt Hamilton caused her, she returned to grieve with him and after her husband’s death, set about telling his story. The dynamic between her and her sister is beautiful!

Another Slytherin of a character is Aaron Burr. He is portrayed as Hamilton’s enemy. Both orphaned and both want to get to the top of their career but with different approaches. Hamilton voices his opinions loudly and will not be swayed by them. Burr lets people guess his opinions, but they’re not fixed. He’ll change his opinion based on what side appears to be winning. Unfortunately for Burr, it always seemed that Hamilton managed to get in the way and “rise up” before him. When Hamilton stops Burr from becoming president, Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel.

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine someone else playing these two main characters.

Side Characters

Although a minor character, I also liked Thomas Jefferson. He doesn’t really have a characterisation so much, but his song, “What did I miss?” gets me every time. I could imagine a similar reaction to someone coming back to Britain after a few years in space or something and being like… WHAT THE HELL?

After all, it was the late 1700s. No email or other way to contact him when he was all the way in France.

And let us not forget King George III! Played by Jonathan Groff, King George only appears a couple of times, but I love him! It is something different from this Frozen actor… honestly I’m terrible at celebrities so it wasn’t until our blogging host told me this that I knew it was the same man. Although only in it for a couple of times, his songs are amazing. Brilliant. Catchy. His songs are, maybe not necessarily on par with Disney villains, but pretty darn close.

Does Hamilton work as a musical?

Yes. Hamilton works incredibly well as a musical. The music is catchy and captivating, and the lyrics are cleverly written. The music helps to tell the story and bring the characters to life. The songs are also incredibly memorable and will stay with you after…

The way the scenes change from being in a bar, to being in a house or on a ship is amazing that you don’t realise that they haven’t actually moved from that spot you’ve been watching them on for the last few hours. Clever bit of staging that really brings it to life in the mids of a Revolutionary War.

Favourite Parts of Hamilton

One of my favourite parts is King George III. Two or three scenes and not a single second wasted. However, I am also a writer like the protagonist. I have a calling to write. I just… need… to write.

So I relate with the song Non-Stop. It is my life. Writing must be done, it just has to be. And by the sounds of it, Hamilton had the same urge. He needed to write! He needed the feel of the quill in his hand and that’s why the man was “non-stop!” . Quiet a few of the songs are about writing and I just feel like it’s my mood captured in a song when I hear them. And judging by my Nanowrimo group, so do they!

Give me your writing power, Hamilton! You had your turn!

Of course, I can imagine the actor and writer Lin-Manuel Miranda also identifies with Hamilton and I am sure Sophie does too!

I also found it interesting how they balanced the story of good and bad. Burr was the villain but he musical points out that villains do not get the choice to write their story in the history books. It is the winners that write it and so the winners are going to see themselves as the heroes. Looking at history and all our wars, it is true. The winner is seen as the hero and the loser the villain. However, as we look deeper into our heroes, we see that they’re not as perfect as the books make out or we are lead to believe at school.

I’m looking at you, Churchill.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Horrible Histories teaching us stuff that school didn’t, I wouldn’t be such a history buff, doing my PhD on 18th century pirates… anyways, I digress.

Thoughts overall

Hamilton is a must-see musical that tells a captivating story with memorable music and perfectly executed staging choices and performances. It is a show that will stay with you long afterwards and one that will make you consider history in a different way while also teaching you some of the dynamics about British and American relationship, and engaging you with American history that British people are not usually familiar with.

I would say that I do have to have the subtitles on, just so I can understand the lyrics. I think that may be a me thing. I struggle to catch words in song usually. However, reading words of something that I am watching never bothers me and it did not take away from the experience. Now, I noticed that I hadn’t actually said anything needed to be improved or anything was weak. That’s simply because I cannot think of a weakness.

Music: awesome. Acting: superb. Story: engaging. Characterisation: Brill…

For that reason, I am giving it 5 starts. I don’t often give things five stars, although maybe I give more higher ratings in visual form than in print form. But I do think it deserves it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hamilton is a musical that has something for everyone and is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Whether you are a fan of musicals, history, or both, you will be sure to enjoy this show. Be sure to check it out if you have the chance, for now, I will leave you in the capable hands of Sophie but not before leaving you this song to enjoy!

Pst… check out my blog at Little Sea Bear – Shannon

Sneaks out to go rewatch Hamilton, singing, lowly... Da-da-da, dat-da, dat, da-da-da, da-ya-da
Da-da, dat, dat, da-ya-da

1 thought on “Hamilton the Musical (2020) Guest Review”

  1. We adore reading your blog! Your distinctive perspective and genuine voice are game-changers in the world. Keep sharing, because your thoughts have a lasting impact. Thank you for being you!

    Thanks – TheDogGod


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.