Friday night, PBS aired a 90-minute documentary about the making of the hit musical Hamilton. However, hit may be an understatement. With the cheapest tickets being $300 and each show being standing room only, phenomenon may be more appropriate. The beauty of this documentary, was not only the peek behind the curtain, but several clips of performances from both on and off the stage. This play, as you may have guessed, follows the life and political rise of the first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton was one of our founding fathers and one of two non-presidents to be featured on our bills. The other, of course, being Benjamin Franklin. This documentary explored the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda (see previous post for why he should be president) as he wrote, prepared, and starred in Hamilton.
While most of us remember learning about the Revolutionary War, this presentation is completely unique. Miranda gives our founding fathers and their compatriots rhythm and soul and drops a beat for them to lay down some slick lines. (I know, I am the whitest person ever.) This documentary examines Lin-Manuel’s performance and gives the viewer a peek of the creative process that goes into writing a Broadway production. From researching content, to composing songs, to writing lines, Hamilton’s America dives into the creative process. This documentary is part of PBS’s Arts Fall Festival that comes on on Friday nights at 9/8c.
The idea for a hip hop retelling of Alexander Hamilton’s life came to Miranda when he was on vacation reading a Hamilton biography. From there, it took him two years to write two songs. Miranda explored the landmarks of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s lives, as well as Mount Vernon and Monticello. This allowed him to fully grasp the character of these men who would be central figures in the show. Miranda wasn’t the only to visit historic sites. Several cast members studied the lives of their characters so they can correctly portray the founding fathers.
Not only does the documentary explore the making of the stage play, it explores the impact of Hamilton himself. Notable appearances include biographers, politicians, and historians. These people explain what they think of Hamilton and how he helped shape the country to what is is today. From creating governmental agencies, to talking his way out of duels, Alexander Hamilton was unique to say the least. As a poor immigrant who rose to the second highest office in the land, Hamilton personifies the American Dream to rise above your station and make your own path to greatness.
The documentary is informational regarding both Broadway life now and the history of our nation. It runs 1 hour 22 minutes and is available on PBS’s website here. If you are a history buff or just enjoy the theatre, this is definitely worth the watch.
Hamilton Personal Takeaway:
As someone who has been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat for two weeks straight (no shame), it was fantastic to actually get to see what I’ve been hearing. I love documentaries because, ever since I was little, I always want to know the story behind what’s going on. This included the research Lin-Manuel Miranda undertook in his writing of the play and so the history nerd side of me was satisfied as well. Not to mention, Lin’s live tweeting and my texting with a friend in NYC while watching added to the experience. If you are interested in history, documentaries, Broadway, or any combination of the three, this is a must watch.