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January 04, 2016

Hamilton: An American Musical [Soundtrack]

HamiltonHamilton: An American Musical [Soundtrack]

By: Lin-Manuel Miranda

“You have no control
Who lives, who dies
Who tells your story”

Hamilton: An American Musical is the unlikely and tumultuous story of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, set to a heart-pounding mix of rap, hip-hop, R&B, British invasion pop, and traditional show-tunes. The story at the heart of Hamilton is both quintessentially American and wildly dramatic. Alexander Hamilton began life as an impoverished, illegitimate child on the island of St. Croix. By sheer force of his brains and will, he rose to be George Washington’s “Right Hand Man” during the revolution, and his contentious relationships with his fellow founding fathers spawned the two-party system – and eventually caused his untimely end in a duel with the sitting vice president.

Hamilton is the brain-child of Tony award winning writer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights, 2009), who not only wrote the lyrics, music and book for the show, but also performs the title role. In fact, part of what makes Hamilton revolutionary is its pointedly race-blind casting. Here, the roles of America’s founding fathers and revolutionaries are played by African American and Latino performers. Hamilton is, as their tagline claims: “The story of America then, told by America now.”

The Original Broadway Cast Recording (or OBCR if you’re a theater lover) of Hamilton is a unique experience itself. It was recorded over the course of two weeks, as opposed to the customary one or two days, and executive produced by Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson and Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter of The Roots. The result is an album in which every voice is heard, every nuance in Alex Lacamoire’s masterful orchestration sings, and an overall authentic hip-hop sensibility prevails. The effect is so complete, that the album has become the first Broadway cast recording to become a Billboard No.1 Rap Album, and has recently been nominated for a Grammy.

Since Hamilton is sung from beginning to end, listeners who pick up the 2-disc, 46-song album will be able to experience the whole show – minus the staging, costumes, and (award winning) choreography. In fact, Miranda has admitted that, due to its high production value, listeners of the cast recording will hear things that theatergoers will not. So, even if you can’t be in “The Room Where it Happens”, you can still experience the show that has the theater world turned upside-down.  

Review By: Addie Matteson