Winner of 11 Tony Awards, Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation, has been the subject of much popular and political excitement since its 2015 debut. Despite rave reviews, including by world leaders, fans have asked whether the musical was really worth the $849 premium seat (a price that some considered a bargain in the years after its original debut) or close to $200 regular seat ticket fees (even for traveling companies of the show). Now that a film recording is being released on Apple TV, a wider audience will be able to see and decide for themselves whether Broadway’s most expensive show ever is deserving of praise or largely overrated.
Here are three reasons why Hamilton is worth the hype and three reasons why it’s not.
Three reasons why Hamilton is all that:
Great music and acting
Combining hip-hop, rap, jazz, R&B and Broadway tunes, Hamilton’s score and lyrics are fresh, innovative and catchy. In fact, The Atlantic made a case for it being the album of the year in 2016. As proof of the songs’ impact on pop culture, former President Obama joined in a recording of a Hamilton re-mix that was released in 2018. It’s a contemporary soundtrack that became the best-selling cast album in Nielsen history. The cast, in best Broadway tradition, is well-versed and alternates between the genres without missing a beat… or a breath. It’s no wonder the show sold $30 million in advance ticket sales upon its move to Broadway and has since become a $1 billion franchise.
You actually learn something
Barring some minor tweaks to the storyline, Hamilton’s plot generally sticks to the real story of Alexander Hamilton. This means that audiences are learning valuable and unforgettable lessons about the history of the United States of America, all from the comfort of a theater (or living room) seat. Not to mention, the tunes will make your tiptoes dance with glee.
Reflective of current times
Even though the story of Alexander Hamilton took place centuries ago, certain themes strung through the performance are reminiscent of recent events in American society. These include the “repeated effects of speaking one’s mind,” the clash of immigrants, and the elite and the promise of the “American Dream.” In today’s era of “a society divided,” the musical, with its symbolism of resistance and inspiration for artists of color, particularly resonates today and may serve as a comfort or even a springboard towards action to change.
Three reasons why Hamilton is overrated:
Not as “revolutionary” as it’s made out to be
While the show does have a cast comprised of all races, Hamilton is not the first production to do so. Is it more impressive this time, because the original characters were all white men? Perhaps. However, when you figure that most of the cast are men and the female cast mates that are on stage are merely pawns revolving around the main character, the plot seems less “revolutionary” and more patriarchal. Furthermore, where are historical people of color who most undoubtedly lived in America at the time? As Lyra Monteiro asks in the Public Historian journal, “Is this the history that we most want black and brown youth to connect with—one in which black lives so clearly do not matter?”
Hamilton has long been the most expensive ticket out there, by a wide margin. However, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a single Hamilton ticket, before the coronavirus shut down Broadway, you could have spent only $99 of your hard-earned money on a good seat to Wicked or The Lion King (both classics, easily outdoing Hamilton in the scenery/spectacle department). Or, since its 2015 debut, you could have enjoyed the brilliant Matilda or laugh-out-loud searing satire which is Book of Mormons. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Broadway was teeming with great musical performances: from Chicago to 42nd Street to Oklahoma or Dear Evan Hansen to Les Miserables, there was no shortage of alternative top-notch theatre seats to inhabit.
Not everyone’s a fan
Hamilton has been fortunate to receive unlimited accolades and great reviews, but let’s not forget the less heard voice. Not everyone wants to pay a fortune to see the musical and those who do are not always impressed with the score, scenery, or have patience to sit through a 2 hour and 45 minute history lesson. And that’s okay. You don’t have to love a play just because lots of other people do. Let’s also not forget that the musical is a fast-talking one, which means that some viewers, especially those for whom English is not their first language, might have a problems following the show’s most known trait. So, while it’s totally fine not to be a Hamilton fan, keep in mind that this show, like opera, might be more enjoyable if you know the story and music before seeing it for the first time.
The Bottom Line: It seems as though everyone wants to see Hamilton, but is the musical worth the hype, or is it overrated? What do you think?