Both teens and teachers marvel in the wonder of Hamilton, a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the Founding Fathers. Hamilton mixes up the routine formula of musical theater by incorporating rap and hip hop into the soundtrack and having all parts played by people of color.
But how did Hamilton become so popular? Social studies teacher Jen Martin thinks the play happened at the right time.
“I think there’s a lot of talk, nationally, about race and race relations, and that this is the thing that people can sort of agree on,” Martin said. “It’s also saying something pretty controversial about race and the way we see race, but it’s super approachable, so everyone can kind of engage with it, which is interesting.”
Sophomore Zuzzie Savitz learned about Hamilton from a friend. She said she thinks the popularity comes from the modern twist on the story of the Founding Fathers and music that is appealing to teens.
“I don’t know if it was meant to target the teen demographic, but I think that’s really what it did,” Savitz said.
Freshman Max Siegel said that he thinks Miranda’s risk of making a new type of musical definitely paid off.
“I think what makes it so amazing is the fact that it’s the first musical to ever do something where the soundtrack is all rap and hip hop,” Siegel said.
Savitz said that seeing it live put everything in context and helped her understand the musical more.
According to StubHub, an external supplier of Hamilton tickets, weekend tickets start at around $700. According to the official Hamilton website, tickets are sold out until mid 2017.
“We went to New York, and then I got tickets nine minutes before the show because they drop in price right before the show. That was crazy, that was amazing. I had such good seats; they were front mezzanine and that was an amazing experience,” Siegel said.
Martin is not only enjoying Hamilton as a consumer of musical theater, but also as a teacher. She is using Hamilton to help teach the first unit of her School Within a School junior history class in a more engaging, and to incorporate discussions of race.
“When you talk about the Revolutionary Era, it’s the story of white people, and so I was like, ‘That stinks because it means I don’t start my theme, my racial theme, until later,’” Martin said. “By choosing Hamilton, I’m now able to talk about race way earlier.”
Though the majority of the musical is factually correct, according to Martin, Hamilton, Laurens and Lafayette never met at the same time in person. However, Martin said that her students read and learn about the revolution from sources besides Hamilton, so she said she doesn’t care if the information in the musical is all factually correct.
“Honestly, I don’t really care if my kids leave Brookline High thinking that John Laurens and Hamilton and Lafayette sang in a bar together. I don’t really think that matters at all. I want them to engage in a way more meaningful way,” Martin said.
Martin said that Hamilton is revolutionary, especially in this new era of questioning race politics in America.
“I know that sounds like a pun or something because it is about the revolution, but it is revolutionary,” Martin said. “The fact that there’s this play where George Washington is black is really, profoundly interesting.”