Musical raps ‘Hamilton’ — from Caribbean to Broadway

Leslie Odom Jr., from left, Phillipa Soo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson appear at the curtain call following the opening night performance of “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in New York.
Invision/Associated Press, Charles Sykes

Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation’s founding father, the first secretary of the treasury, the chief aide to George Washington, and — in less flattering terms — a “bastard,” orphan and “immigrant” from the West Indies.

Historians have portrayed The Nevis-born achiever with details on how he was gunned down by Vice President Aaron Burr and more often than not tourists to New York City stop by Trinity Church Cemetery in lower Manhattan to visit his burial site.

On Broadway, a musical called “Hamilton” incorporates the many aspects to the ambitious Caribbean individual in a hip-hop musical, using rhymes, rap, and dancing that depict Hamilton to be the sum of all his parts.

Inspired by the book Alexander Hamilton written by Ron Chernow, the runaway hit features a brand new approach with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also stars as the main character.

Miranda is best known for writing the earliest draft of the Tony-winning “In the Heights” musical in 1999 while still a sophomore in college.

That the 35-year-old Puerto Rican is also a rapper who grew up in the uptown Washington Heights section of Manhattan could also attribute to his perspective on diversity, history, and music.

Dubbed the biggest hit of the new season, “Hamilton” has been playing to packed houses at the Richard Rodgers Theater since opening on Aug. 6.

Born around Jan. 11, 1755 Hamilton spent his early years in Nevis and Barbados where his mother migrated to after leaving his father.

At age 14, after his mother died, he made his way to New York City where he studied at Columbia University. The rest is history.

Miranda gleaned more from his studies at Hunter College High School.

He imagined bouts Hamilton must have faced with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and, of course, Burr.

He perceived that Hamilton’s immigrant status must have taken the kind of Donald Trump beating doled out on Mexicans and foreign-born residents in the United States in 2015.

At one juncture when Hamilton’s enviable upward spiral is rebuked, the independent thinker is told to “go back where you come from.”

The line does not hang awkwardly throughout the production, at a later scene, a Haitian character is helped rapping to a lyrics retort “immigrants — we get the job done.”

On hearing this line, the king of England (portrayed by Jonathan Groff) runs offstage to rethink his loss of the colony.

Using a multiracial, cast Miranda connects with the rainbow mosaic.

How this unlikely story managed to attract theater crowds could be attributed to young audiences, the topic, the man, and the language of rap that totally entrances patrons.

Compare this presentation to the short-lived Broadway run of Tupac Shakur’s “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” and the main ingredient is neither beats nor rhymes, rap nor reality, but the substantive storyline to which audiences can relate.

Add to that the irreverence of the principal characters, humor, and even a little scratch from the orchestra pit and voila, “Hamilton” could conceivably make it to the big screen in no time.

Nothing is sanitized in this rapturous presentation.

Miranda’s raw and real telling lays out a history schoolteachers might timidly broach.

And it is that very approach that is alluring to savvy audiences.

The king, the colony, taxing of tea and whisky, how he single-handedly penned most of the Bill of Rights, an extra-marital affair, his marriage, son Phillip, and the fact that 50 years after his death his wife continued to promote his legacy, provide interesting anecdotes to rap.

After Hamilton was gunned-down, Elizabeth co-founded New York’s first private orphanage, the New York Orphan Asylum Society.

After some of the accomplishments are detailed, the fact Hamilton is the only immigrant on a U.S. currency and that he established the U.S. treasury system seems almost a drop in the political bucket.

Hamilton was a true American hero and a brilliant political strategist who buoyed Washington to establish himself first and foremost in American presidential standings.

It is little wonder that the 44th leader of the nation — President Barack Obama — escorted his wife Michelle for a date-night Broadway outing to see the musical.

Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, with music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire — they are stellar enhancements to the storytelling.

“Hamilton,” directed by Thomas Kail, also stars Daveed Diggs (Thomas Jefferson), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton) Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler) Christopher Jackson (George Washington) Okieriete Onaodowan (James Madison) Jonathon Groff (King George) and an unrivalled ensemble of thespians. At the Richard Rodgers Theater. [226 W. 46th St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues in Manhattan, www.hamiltonbroadway.com].

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