For Valentine’s Day, my husband got me tickets to go see Hamilton. My life has been forever changed by seeing that musical. I know that sounds completely silly, but I really like words, hence I appreciate things like novels, essays, short stories, poetry, and song lyrics. And Hamilton is filled with a lot of words that are masterfully put together to tell a richly detailed story.
One thing I appreciate about this show is how it made me appreciate the founding of this country. We all learn American history, but we probably don;t think of what it actually means to found a country. I now have a deeper appreciation of the lives that were risked and lost to form this nation, the painstaking work it took to develop a constitution and a government and an economy and everything else in between. What a momentous undertaking!
I also appreciate the characters and how the actors portrayed them. My heart ached for Hamilton and Burr and Angelica and Eliza. It was obvious that the actors truly understood their characters and assumed their personas onstage.
But what I appreciate most of all is the masterful lyrics of this show. Since I have been obsessively listening to the songs for the last month, I have come to admire the way Lin-Manuel Miranda so tightly knitted together the songs, how songs later in the show reference back to earlier songs, creating this intricate story. By far, my favorite example of this takes place early on when “Helpless” fades into “Satisfied.” The first time you see the show (or listen to the songs), it is easy to get caught up in Eliza during “Helpless” (it is, after all, her song), but then you get the chance to go back and see the same scene from Angelica’s perspective in “Satisfied” and it is mesmerizing.
I am also blown away by how challenging it must be to write lyrics that tell a story using rap. I watched a special on PBS called Hamilton’s America, and Miranda said something in there to the effect of, “With rap songs, you can say so much more in less time because the delivery is so fast, but there can three or four rhymes in a single line.” That is some serious paraphrasing on my part, but when that realization hits, it makes the songs that much more amazing. For example, just listen to this song as an example of this.
Before I end this post, I must give a nod to my favorite song in the whole show. It is “Burn”, and Eliza sings it after learning that Alexander has been unfaithful to her. The arc of the story in the song takes the listener through the whole story from Eliza’s perspective, and the pain she feels is quite evident in the lyrics. I love the reference used to being part of the narrative — she mentions wanting to be part of Hamilton’s narrative earlier in the show, now she wants out of the narrative, but by the end, she purposefully puts herself back into the narrative. And of course, the allusion to Icarus is what initially drew me in to the lyrics. Here is the song, masterfully done by Phillipa Soo.
All this obsession after only one viewing of the show! I keep pestering my husband for a return trip. I’m sure that won’t be enough, either. I’ll never be satisfied 🙂
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