When Hamilton opened in 2015, it featured the importance of representation while opening a door to further diversity in Broadway. Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, Anne Healy said the musical has demanded the need for ethnic representation across the theater industry.
“It has opened up [opportunities] for representation and for casting that [have] never been as broad, and it has allowed producers, writers, directors, actors to begin to envision a new way to represent bodies on stage,” said Healy, associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and head of the musical program.
Starting Friday, the Broadway musical Hamilton will be available for streaming on Disney+.
The release during Independence Day weekend is timely, Healy said, and speaks to how America got to where it is today and what it means moving forward.
“The creators — Lin-Manuel and others — have very purposefully chosen the July 4 weekend to release this movie and very pointedly in order to continue and open up the discussion into race, into representation, into equality,” Healy said.
We'll never be free until we end slavery
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow, Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and first secretary of the treasury, who defended and ratified the U.S. Constitution.
The musical score was unlike any other in 2015, mixing multiple musical genres including hip-hop, musical theater, pop music, rap and more.
Hamilton was known to speak fluidly and nonstop as a verbalist, which is a style of speaking similar to rap. Healy said if Hamilton were alive today, he would most likely be a rapper.
“So there's connection in the material that at first glance seems so shocking, and yet it's also why people are so connected and drawn to this musical,” Healy said. “It forces an audience to reconceptualize everything that they've ever known about the beginnings of our country.”
Music education junior Jacqueline Macias said the opening song resonates with her since it shows how Hamilton came from nothing and then became a politician.
How does a bastard, orphan
Son of a whore and a Scotsman
Dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
The musical reimagines historical white slave owners, who were the elite and the educated, to represent what America looks like now. These characters include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de Lafayette, Aaron Burr, Peggy Schuyler and many more.
“[The creators] took all concepts of replicating these characters on stage in 2015,” Healy said. “They took all ideas of trying to represent them historically and represented them in a way that was inclusive.”
The original cast includes the representation of multiple minorities, which Healy said was to illustrate America’s diversity.
Macias said it’s powerful that the musical includes people of color.
“You're presenting history in a way that sort of honors the people that really built this country,” Macias said. “The immigrants, the people of color that came here — without them, that story wouldn't exist.”
Immigrants, we get the job done
“Back in those days, a lot of people here were still immigrants and so, this whole country was built by immigrants, and we're still here,” Macias said. “It's important to remember our roots as immigrants, and that we're still just as important now as we were then.”
The musical not only appeals to those in the theater but to many others.
Its release allows access to communities that don’t usually have access to theater, whether that be geographically or financially, but Healy said she doubts releases like this will replace live theater or Broadway performances.
Elizabeth Anderson, social work graduate student, plans to watch the release with her sisters, who have already seen the show live. However, when they watched it live, Anderson was just beginning to get into Hamilton and wasn’t sure about spending money to see it live.
“I've had this very ingrained idea of what it looks like in my head, but I've never actually seen it in person on purpose, so that'll be interesting,” Anderson said.
She never enjoyed history class growing up because it typically broke down history in facts and figures. Hamilton allows her to connect historical events with a human aspect.
How can I keep leading when the people I’m leading keep retreating?
We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn
Knight takes rook, but look
We are out-gunned (What!)
“Throughout time, I've gotten more interested in history,” Anderson said. “Being able to really connect the social aspects of it like what people were doing and thinking at the time versus just, ‘This person did this on this day.’”
The song “Burn” reminds her that people have always loved and lost.
I’m re-reading the letters you wrote me
I’m searching and scanning for answers
In every line, for some kind of sign
And when you were mine
The world seemed to burn, burn
“It just kind of reminds me that people are just people,” Anderson said. “Always have been and always will be.”
Joseph Bingeman, accounting and information systems junior, said he relates to Hamilton through the difficulties he’s faced. In high school, he lived in his car for a short period of time before moving in with a friend.
The song “Hurricane” resonates most deeply with him because it shows how Hamilton overcame struggles and hardships through writing.
When I was seventeen a hurricane destroyed my town
I didn’t drown, I couldn’t seem to die
I wrote my way out
Wrote everything down far as I could see
I wrote my way out
Bingeman did the same. He recalled always feeling like the world was absurd, and he spent a lot of time writing and reading as a kid to cope with events in his life.
He said it’ll be nice to view the show for the first time.
The musical has a track for almost any situation, he said. The recurring theme is a lack of guidance or certainty, which is normally felt in middle or high school, and it keeps the story of Hamilton from fading.
Let me tell you what I wish I'd known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?