Obama greet the cast and crew of Hamiltonpete souza

Life as a musical theatre nerd is infinitely better when there is a new hit show that everyone, and I literally mean everyone, is talking about and humming under their breath. This year’s gift from the Broadway gods (also known as Lin-Manuel Miranda) is Hamilton, the story of the often forgotten Founding Father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, whose tale is told in the form of an overwhelmingly contemporary hip-hop musical.

I won’t lie: when I first heard the soundtrack, I was not convinced. The show opens with three consecutive predominantly heavy rap numbers, and as a fan of the soaring melodies of Stephen Schwartz and the catchy tunes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, I thought Hamilton just wasn’t for me.

Six weeks later, I have the soundtrack on repeat, know all the songs, and am now aware of how wrong my first impression was. I think my initial reaction to the volume of complex rapping in the show was that it was not written for someone as uncool as me. But this is where Miranda’s genius truly becomes apparent. His blending of the astonishing rap with the gorgeous musical theatre melodies gives the show an edge that Broadway has been lacking, and he really has redefined the genre.

You can hear influences from Andrew Lloyd Webber in ‘Burn’, Nicki Minaj in ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’, Laurence O’Keeffe in ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ and Beyoncé in ‘Say No To This’. Essentially, Lin-Manuel Miranda has done for American history what Baz Luhrmann did for Romeo + Juliet. If the hardcore musical theatre traditionalists are still not swayed, there is always King George’s wonderfully camp, wonderfully Broadway number, ‘You’ll Be Back’.

Whilst the music is the core of this show’s genius, the telling, or more accurately the retelling, of this historical narrative is so important, not just to America’s past but also for what it means to be American today. Performed by a mainly non-white cast, the hip hop songs seamlessly transport us to the eighteenth century and tell, in magnificent detail, the story of the life and work of Alexander Hamilton, who served as America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. The musical brings to light the genius, effort and personal strength he invested in the creation of one of the most prosperous countries on earth, despite having all the odds against him.

A key line is “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry”, reminding us that, at its heart, the USA is comparatively new – only 240 years young. The show celebrates a nation founded on the values of freedom, ambition and the American Dream. I think the show holds a pertinent message of patriotism that could win over even the most cynical American citizen.

Fans of Hamilton include Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Jay-Z; it is sold out until September, although tickets are rumoured to be going for $4,000 on the black market (always a feasible option). Yet the chance for us commoners to see the show may well be when Cameron Mackintosh brings it to the West End in 2017, hopefully with the same roaring success as it has had on Broadway. For now, though, we are limited to the delights of the soundtrack. So, what are you waiting for?

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