Monday, October 29, 2018
Narrated by Mariska Hargitay
Published April 2016 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: audiobook from my local library
Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.
HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable performance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.
Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sondheim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by President Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.
First things first: listening to it instead of reading it is a mixed blessing. Hargitay does a terrific job of reading this book and listening to it may be the only way I'm going to get to it any time soon. But...no access to those photos, notebooks, or emails. I would love to check out the physical book now so I can see those things.
It's always astonishing how much goes into a musical production, how many people are involved, how many choices have to be made. While Hamilton is absolutely Manuel-Miranda's baby, getting this show to the point it's at now was very much a collaborative effort.
The choices made by those putting Hamilton together were, perhaps, even more challenging than most. For example, costumes. You've got a show set in the late 18th century but the musical score is modern. How do you blend both? Paul Tazewell made the decision to dress the cast in period costumes from the neck down and from the neck up things would be modern. It's a small choice but all of those small choices came together to blend the time periods of the story and the music.
I've never read (listened) to any other book that explains how a musical was made and came to Broadway so I don't know how common or unique all of the little changes and tweaks and influences were for Hamilton. Even after the show had been playing off Broadway for some time, Lin Manuel-Miranda was still making changes to the music. He took out an entire number and replaced it. He tweaked The Schuyler Sisters after listening to the three ladies then playing the Schuyler sisters singing R&B in their dressing rooms.
Fans of the show, particularly those who have seen it performed, will enjoy this insight into all it took to make Hamilton the hit it is; it will also likely appeal to fans of musical theater. Hamilton is a musical about a revolution and its aftermath which truly is, itself, a revolution.