In early 2015, musical theater phenom and old school hip hop head Lin-Manuel Miranda unveils his new musical, Hamilton: An American Musical. A year and a half later, super-nerd and aspiring writer Ariel Rada (yours truly) puts his stubbornness aside and finally listens to the broadway recording that has enamored and consumed his family members, Hamilton: An American Musical. In the ensuing months no other music graced my ears. Lin-Manuel’s masterpiece has affected me in a way that no piece of art had before. About a year and half after my love affair with Hamilton: An American Musical started my girlfriend literally hit the jackpot; by winning the Hamilton lottery. I come to you in this piece, with fresh eyes and ears, in an attempt to put to page the deep and complex emotions that Ron Chernow, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Alexander Hamilton have instilled in me.
Those of you who know me know that I call myself a writer, one who is as amateur in skill and experience as they come. Despite my usual desire to write reviews of the entertainment I consume and my constant need to let the people know what I do and do not like (mostly do not) I was always hesitant to tackle Hamilton. It was no accident that it has taken almost two years since my musical affair began for me to finally muster up the courage to shout into the void in the hopes that Hamilton himself can feel my emotions through time and space and Lin-Manuel would somehow read this through the magic of the internet. Hamilton reminds the audience of morality and legacy. I am not throwing away my shot in this world and my time to write like I’m running out of time starts now.
I was never much of a broadway enthusiast however, as a musician and writer it’s easy to see the talent and vision required to create such extraordinary works of art. Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t just make a broadway hit. He created a show with incredible crossover appeal. Miranda saw shades of himself in Hamilton so he retold the story through his own hip hop centric New York experience. The hip hop influence behind Hamilton: An American Musical is what makes it truly unique. Perhaps someday broadway performers or programs will look back at shows like Hamilton and put work into the rap and hip hop that made it so unique. Many of the talented performers in the show sometimes struggle at the quick, slick rhymes Miranda wrote for himself and his friends. The ghetto-lingo brings such a charm to the characters; it truly reminds you that it’s immigrants and people of color behind the production.
The fact that Hamilton was of mixed race and an immigrant in New York is of the utmost importance when relating his life to that of Lin-Manuel Miranda. It helps remind all of us that the country was created on the backs of immigrants; both white and colored. Lin-Manuel’s decision to fill was cast with people of color was no accident nor could it have been easy. It is no small thing for an audience to see themselves in the art they consume. An American musical, set in the history of America, played by Americans of different colors is a stark contrast to the message being spread by some today. Let Hamilton: An American Musical be a declaration that these Americans will not be erased from the narrative and the history of their home.
As a young Filipino kid in Jersey, hip hop and the R&B was the language of my community and peers. Through church productions and the osmosis of my very talented family, I was attracted to music of all kinds and developed what talent I had. However, I was never known to dig deep into the well of broadway musicals. I scoffed at commercials for Cats and avoided the allure of the Phantom but if Miranda’s masterpiece had debuted during my formative years there would have been no doubt as to my immediate interest. I can say with some confidence that this show would have inspired me to cultivate my talent and audition for musicals or other programs. My chance to take that shot has passed but I pray that this effect was not wasted on me. I pray that some young man out there ignores any societal pressures or racial disadvantages and is inspired by Miranda to join the arts. I pray that we might have a diversity on stage and in the arts that reflects the population of our world.
The potential for inspiration is the true power of this musical. It brings peoples and genres that are often relegated to the background up to center stage. I’ve had classmates dismiss my cries of racism. I’ve had teachers disregard the difficulty of rapping. I cannot say that a single musical can break these stigmas long held around the world but I can say that Lin-Manuel might have inspired the generation that rises up and incites the cultural revolution. I have no connection to the creation of this work of art yet I can’t help but feel a swell of pride and joy that Hamilton’s story is not just a broadway hit, it’s a true phenomenon.
Watching Hamilton in person gave me one true message; that a group of young men and women of color can incite revolution. The few can influence the many. The disadvantages that plague the minorities of this country can be overcome. We must heed the call of Alexander Hamilton. Rise up, stand, and do not throw away your shot to make this world a better place. Let that be the legacy of our generation.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,