After opening his first Broadway show “In the Heights” to great acclaim, composer, lyricist and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda took a vacation to Mexico. At the airport, he picked up a book to read while he was gone. It wasn’t exactly a beach read. Miranda bought Ron Chernow’s 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton; and as he read it, it occurred to him that Hamilton’s life would make a great musical.
In 2009, he was invited to perform at a White House poetry slam. Everyone thought he’d do a number from “In the Heights.” Instead he performed the first song from the musical he was developing “Hamilton.”
In 2015 “Hamilton" opened Off-Broadway at New York’s Public Theater. It was an immediate sensation, selling out every performance. Producers quickly began making plans for a Broadway transfer. It became an even bigger sensation when it opened last fall at the Richard Rodgers Theater, the same house where “In the Heights” had played.
A couple of months ago, the show now a mega-hit, Miranda was invited back to the White House with the cast to perform again.
“Hamilton” accomplished the unheard of: It not only made its way to the top of the rap/hip hop charts, it also won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater album.
When “Hamilton” was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama earlier this week, I realized the time had come to feature it on “Two Way Street.” Producer Jenny Ament and I tracked down guests who could come at the show from two different perspectives:
David Sehat is an associate professor of American history at Georgia State University. We knew he’d be able to talk knowledgeably about Alexander Hamilton’s place in history and about whether the show depicts the lives of Hamilton, Aaron Burr, George Washington, Hamilton’s wife Eliza and sister-in-law Angelica and others who were among the young New Yorkers spoiling to fight the British and found a nation in the middle of the 18th Century.
Rick Lombardo is a seasoned theatrical director who is now the chairman of the theater department at Kennesaw State University, and he knows his theater history inside and out.
Rick and David had never met before they came into the “Two Way Street” studio. But as you’ll hear, they developed a quick and easy rapport as our conversation unfolded. I especially loved the fact that they didn’t agree on whether Miranda’s decision to use a diverse cast to portray white founding fathers made the play more or less relevant.
In addition to what I think is an absorbing conversation, you’re going to hear a lot of music from “Hamilton” today. Jenny and I chose to play longer excepts than we typically would because the music is so powerful and infectious it deserves to be showcased. It’s really the most-talked about element of Miranda’s show.
I’m excited about sharing the great music from the show as well as the story of the impact it is having on American theater.
If you’d like to hear the entire “Hamilton” cast album, you can find it here:
And if you’d like to watch more videos about the show and Lin-Manuel Miranda, check these out: