You may not know this, but I enjoy musicals. I’m not some musical theater nut that follows the whole scene closely, but I do like listening to them.
Growing up I was always drawn to cartoons and movies with singing and catchy tunes. There seemed to be some unwritten rule when I was a kid that all children’s movies had to be musicals. Then it seemed there was a brief period where shows started doing musical episodes, which I thought was pretty interesting. A few years ago I actually started listening to musicals online, and found I liked a lot of them. I was drawn in by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Avenue Q (which was actually my initial source of inspiration for Optimistically Cynical) and Green Day’s American Idiot.
Green Day is one of my favorite bands, and has been since the mid 90s. When the American Idiot album came out I was fascinated by it. It really spoke to me in the midst of my disillusionment over Bush’s reelection. I was pretty blown away by the way the whole thing was structured and looked for the meaning behind it all. Then they made it into a musical that expanded on what I had been picturing in my mind. I got tickets for my birthday to go see it in San Francisco one year and really enjoyed it. The theatricality of it all was really impressive. Since then I’ve seen a couple other musicals in person.
My wife and I saw Evil Dead the Musical at a small theater on a wine tasting trip in Ukiah for our anniversary a couple years ago, and it was a ton of fun. I love those movies, and it was really funny to see them lampooned in musical form. Evil Dead was actually the first DVD I ever bought, and I remember just being amazed by all the bonus features. And Bruce Campbell’s If Chin’s Could Kill served as a pretty fascinating look behind the movie. Also, you may have noticed that the Paranormal Pinkerton‘s look was inspired by The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
My dad and I also saw Spamalot in San Jose last year. We are both fairly big Monty Python fans, and of course the Holy Grail is one of our favorites, so that was a pretty fun show. Even if my dad thought there was too much singing.
For awhile now I’ve heard the rumblings of unabashed praise for Hamilton. It would just keep popping up on podcasts I listened to or things I read. But I was hesitant to actually listen to it.
Unlike most people, I actually knew about Alexander Hamilton before this musical. I love American history and really enjoyed studying it in school, to the point where I’ll sometimes read books about it for fun and regularly watch documentaries on it. My favorite period is specifically the revolutionary era. When people ask me if I could time travel and go to any time I wanted that is the one that always comes first to my mind.
While I was at West Valley Community College in the mid 00s getting my general ed I took several American history elective courses. One of my favorite classes was taught by an ancient professor who specialized in Californian history. This was a twice a week night class that was three hours long, and while the majority of people there were struggling to stay awake I was riveted by everything this old historian had to say. One thing I took away from him was how to better take notes and read text, although that isn’t so relevant here.
More germane to this blog is the book we read called Founding Brothers. It really dug deep into what all these revolutionary figures where actually like as men. And with a chapter dedicated solely to the duel, and much of the book focused on Hamilton and Jefferson butting heads, I got an appreciation for the man. My teacher had a lot to say about him too that portrayed him as something of a passionate but misunderstood genius. And by the end of the class he was one of my favorite men from that time.
So when I heard about some rap musical starring mostly people of color about Hamilton’s life I really didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if it was some kind of joke or mockery of the man, and I wasn’t inclined to investigate.
But I kept hearing how great it was, and one day I had a several hour drive by myself while I commuted to a work meeting, so I thought I’d give it a try. And it blew me away!
And the funny thing is my first instinct was I wanted to share it with people. It was just so good. It really seemed to capture the spirit of the time and celebrate all those involved. It took what I liked about Hamilton and elaborated on it, while keeping it pretty historically accurate. It makes it all feel totally relatable and contemporary. It even makes the second half after the revolution is done and the country’s foundation is being laid as exciting as the first half. Not an easy thing to do.
Not to mention the music is great and the lyrics are so rich and full of multiple meaning. Just really great stuff.
And I just wanted to keep re-listening to it. And somehow it made it better each time because I kept getting something new from it. I love entertainment like that. Goodfellas is my favorite movie and I’ve seen it countless times, and every time I see it I find something new about it.
Then I found out this is the typical reaction most people have when they see Hamilton. Just pure joy for the musical and a desire to spread the word and hear it again. It’s kind of funny to hear my personal experience echoed again an again by others.
And here I am several months later still enjoying it just as much.
So have you heard it yet, or even better gotten the chance to see it? What did you think?