Hamilton, an American musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, follows the story of one of the most influential founding fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton. Inspired by the biography “Alexander Hamilton” written by Rob Chernow, the musical takes its audience back to colonial America, riddled with themes of revolution and love, as it illustrates Hamilton’s life, influence, and the legacy he leaves behind. The musical made a name for itself, first performing off-Broadway and eventually winning 11 Tony Awards and becoming one of the most successful and popular American musicals of the decade.
Hamilton begins with the audience being introduced to Alexander Hamilton and his life, as an orphan fighting through obstacles he faced as he arrived at the colonies to start his journey and leave his mark on American history. Hamilton, a strong federalist and an intelligent politician is determined to fight for his beliefs and his nation. On his journey through the revolutionary era, he meets the love of his life, Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of a wealthy senator. Hamilton continues to serve his nation as they fight through the war to declare independence from Great Britain as he becomes George Washington’s, right-hand man. However, like all powerful duos, they encounter problems and differences in strategies for war, leading Washington to send Hamilton home which angers him as he dedicated his life to this government. But, he is able to prove in the Battle of Yorktown his diligent and effective command as they were victorious. Throughout Act II, it is highlighted and emphasized how Hamilton and Jefferson are known to have opposite beliefs in history, through the cabinet meeting numbers. Hamilton persists yet also encounters disagreements with other cabinet members after George Washington steps down, for instance with Aaron Burr and James Madison, over different ideologies and accusations against Hamilton that he had committed treason. While struggling with his career and these accusations, his wife Eliza also finds out about the affair Hamilton had been having, which devastates her followed by the death of his son, Phillip. The musical continues to unravel as Hamilton juggles the obstacles he is faced with, including being challenged by Aaron Burr to a duel in which Hamilton unfortunately dies. The show closes with those closest to Hamilton, his family, lover and even his enemies remembering his legacy and how what he leaves behind will not be forgotten in history for years to come.
Artistic Concept: Overview
When reading the musical for the first time, I came up with a concept by imagining each scene and the way it would be performed. While keeping its originality as a musical, I thought an important difference to enact on this show would be the setting and time it takes place. Instead of revolutionary era America, set in a present time period, specifically 2019 would also give the production leeway to be performed with a different goal, leaving the audiences with something new to think about. As a modern musical, I wanted to be able to connect to a younger off-Broadway audience such as “Millenials” and “Generation Z”, who is not usually a popular cohort of theater-goers. Our modernized Hamilton would also become humorous as an important job of the actors would be to deliver this musical with a different attitude, incorporating a sarcastic tone and over-the-top physical acting to connect to today’s world and political climate which is something I wanted to shine a light on as a result.
Artistic Concept: Setting
The most influential part of our products would be in the setting. For the new and improved time and place where this musical is set, the set design and props would signify to the audience clearly the different era being portrayed. For example, in “The Winter Ball” scene, the set would signify a modern-day grand hall, incorporated with modern-day ballgowns for the women and suits for men. This scene was also important in showing the class difference between Hamilton and Eliza which will be projected through their difference in costume. Furthermore, in “Cabinet Battle #1”, in which Hamilton and Jefferson partake in a cabinet meeting, the scene would take place in a chamber, similar to and inspired by the US Senate Chamber room of the US Capitol building, but with new additions such as technological props, to signify the change in the time period. Reading the musical, this is how I imagined the reenactment of these scenes which gave me the idea of changing the setting of the musical to relate to the modern day.
Artistic Concept: Acting
In this production, the actors would have a very important role since they will be responsible for accurately portraying their characters while also incorporating the correct diction and tone in order to modernize, and even humorize the play. While working with the actor in our production team, it was emphasized that tone is very important and can create a very different impact and effect on the audience. An attitude of sarcasm for certain musical numbers would entertain the audience and even come off as satirical which can create humor. I incorporated these guidelines in the scene “Cabinet Battle #1” which was chosen for Michael to act because not only does it emphasize Hamilton’s determination and important role in government, but it is also comedic relief as Hamilton and Jefferson partake in saying backhanded insults to each other because of their disagreements. For Michael, I urged him that he would have to emphasize the sarcasm and even add a nonchalant attitude and actions to emphasize this difference in beliefs and problems Hamilton encountered and to also bring a lighthearted mood to the musical. I also wanted to humanize certain comedic relief scenes but also overdramatize the dramatic scenes. As the musical itself is filled with different themes of love, determination, and legacy, it also contains themes of corruption and scandal. This led to me think about how we could utilize this play that we are marketing for a younger generation to connect it to this time period. The current political climate in the US has been rough and divided the nation just like how Jefferson and Hamilton have been divided in their beliefs. Also, Hamilton’s scandals and affairs also go to show that history repeats itself as much of that has also happened with our current president today. I thought that would be interesting and unique if we were able to highlight these recurring themes between Hamilton and the current world today, instead of the goal of the music just being a retelling of history.
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Collaboration with the Production Team
Working with my team was very beneficial in thinking and bouncing ideas off one another but also very important due to their help in being able to imagine and understand my vision to incorporate it into our production. Our dramaturg, Kevin was important to us in terms of validating ideas I had, researching the play and helping us stay on theme, and explaining my vision, which could be confusing sometimes. Our designer, Samantha had the role of designing the sets and costumes. Samantha and I had to make sure we were on the same page with our visions and how we envisioned the scenes we chose to focus on. Mohammad, the playwright made sure we were fully grasping the ideas and themes from the original musical and not getting off track as we decided to change the setting and tone of the musical. Furthermore, Michael, who is the main actor in our production, and I had to pick a scene we both liked and for him to act that out in a way that entertains and also amuses the audience to really get our vision across. We rehearsed and worked together which was pleasant because we were able to easily communicate our ideas and problems that we had, whatever they might be. And finally, Patrick, our producer made sure everyone stayed on task while also calculating the budget for the production. He had to make sure we knew who our target audience was so he could accurately market and get the word about our products out there. As a director, it was challenging for me to tap into my creative side and accurately express my vision but our production team was very helpful in doing so and making this a pleasant experience.
Hamilton, is one of the most successful and in my opinion, the perfect musicals ever created, from its creative numbers and lyrics to its amazing acting and stage presence. It truly allows its audience to be immersed in history and the story of one of the most influential founding fathers. Our modern take on Hamilton serves to entertain and highlight history from a new perspective and to make Alexander Hamilton proud.