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Hamilton's America

All Things Hamilton!

Don’t miss the premiere of ‘Hamilton‘s America’ on Friday, Oct. 21 at 9:00 p.m.

October 21, 2016

This was written by KCTS 9 Marketing and Communications intern Danielle Pascual in collaboration with KCTS 9 staff.    

Simply ... the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.

—First Lady Michelle Obama

Daveed Diggs (The Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), Anthony Ramos (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton). Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

This Friday, KCTS 9 will premiere Hamilton’s America, a Great Performances behind-the-scenes special about the making of Broadway’s newest hit: Hamilton: An American Musical.

The winner of 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy Award and the Pulitzer Prize, this Broadway phenomenon tells the story of Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. It is a story of revolution, love, jealousy and forgiveness — told completely through hip-hop and fast-paced rap music. Through it, audiences learn about Hamilton’s relentless drive and about the friends and enemies he makes in his personal life and political career.

Until recently, most Americans knew very little about the life of Alexander Hamilton. Some knew a few details that they’d learned in school, for example — that he was one of the founding fathers but never became president and that he died during a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Since the release of the musical and its soundtrack, many people now know much more.

Hamilton is one of the most admired things in pop culture right now and has become an international sensation. Here are a few things that fans of the musical are talking about!

Watch a Trailer:

Lin Manuel-Miranda

Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda has had a passion for musical theater since he was a child in New York City. His love for Broadway shows grew, leading him to eventually write and compose his first production, In the Heights. This show follows a typical three days in the lively, diverse and vivid neighborhood of Washington Heights, where Miranda grew up. In the Heights won several awards, including four Tonys and a Grammy.

In July 2008, Miranda was on vacation reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography when he realized that hip-hop could be the perfect way to tell Hamilton’s story on stage. Hip-hop seemed to embody who Hamilton was: an orphan, immigrant and soldier who forged his own path into politics in 18th century America. This is when Miranda’s six-year creative process began.President Obama and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton). Photo courtesy of The White House.

An early version of the opening number of the musical, “Alexander Hamilton,” was first performed by Miranda in 2009 at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word for President Obama, his family and other distinguished guests. The musical had its first official preview off-Broadway in January of 2015 and moved to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater that same year in July. As of June of this year, Miranda no longer plays Hamilton in the Broadway production, but continues to interact with fans of the show through social media and often visits the productions in New York and Chicago.

Friends, Lovers and Enemies

In Act 1 of the musical, Aaron Burr is one of the first people Hamilton meets when he arrives in New York, but also ironically is the last face he sees before he dies. Hamilton also meets three men who become his new confidants and first friends: John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan. The three men, along with Hamilton, serve together in the Continental Army under General George Washington. As the show continues, we see Washington become a mentor for Hamilton (his “right-hand man,” according to one song).

Angelica, Eliza and Peggy — the Schuyler sisters — are introduced in Act 1, and the revolutionists have their sights set on romancing them. Tensions arise between Eliza and Angelica when Hamilton marries Eliza, despite the fact Angelica loves him, too. King George’s ballads, sung as a set of break-up songs between United States and England, are some of the catchiest tunes of the show, and they provide comic relief to an otherwise dramatic story.

Philippa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler) and Jasmine Cephas-Jones (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds). Photo courtesy of ‘RadicalMedia.’

In Act 2, we meet Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, a fellow member of Washington’s cabinet, who struggles to work with Hamilton because of their conflicting political views. Jefferson’s ideas are often overshadowed by Hamilton’s because of the close relationship that Washington and Hamilton share. We also meet Philip, the first of Hamilton’s eight children, who looks up to his father, but whose life is tragically cut short. Maria Reynolds, Hamilton’s mistress, is a major part of the second half of the show. Their yearlong affair ultimately destroys Hamilton’s political career and his relationship with his wife.

Although the stories of the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution are more than two centuries old, the themes brought up by these characters are timeless. For example, immigration is an issue at the very center of American life today, as it was in the 18th century. Betrayal, love and forgiveness are also parts of many people’s lives. Miranda explores these universal themes throughout his show, making a centuries-old story relatable for modern audiences.

The Official Broadway Cast Recording

Tickets to see the show on Broadway and in Chicago are very limited, but don’t fret! The soundtrack is available on most streaming platforms, as well as on CD and vinyl. This is a great alternative to seeing the show, and you don’t miss much since the entire show is sung, which leaves you free to imagine what would be happening on stage during a particular song. Admittedly, the soundtrack is quite long (142 minutes), but it’s well worth listening from beginning to end. To get a feel for what the musical has to offer, I would recommend checking out the following tracks (in order):

Listen on Youtube
  1. Alexander Hamilton
  2. My Shot
  3. The Schuyler Sisters
  4. You’ll Be Back
  5. Helpless”/”Satisfied
  6. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
  7. “Non-Stop”
  8. Cabinet Battle #1
  9. The Room Where It Happens
  10. One Last Time
  11. Take A Break
  12. Burn
  13. It’s Quiet Uptown
  14. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Hamilton’s America on Great Performances (#HamildocPBS)

Hamilton’s America is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton. The documentary delves into the creation of the show, revealing Miranda’s process of absorbing and adapting Hamilton’s story into musical theater for today’s audiences. The film includes newly shot footage of the New York production with its original cast, trips to historic locations such as Mt. Vernon and Valley Forge, and a surprising range of interviews with prominent personalities, experts, politicians, and musicians including President Barack Obama, Former President George W. Bush, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim, and TV star Jimmy Fallon.

Hamilton’s America, a PBS Great Performances special, premieres this Friday, Oct. 21 at 9:00 p.m. on KCTS 9.