Review Tuesday: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I first heard about the musical Hamilton around the time of the Tony Awards. I knew that it was nominated for a record-breaking number of awards, and I watched the intro song on YouTube a couple of days after the awards aired. I absolutely loved the mash up they created for the awards show, and went hunting for some of the real songs online. I was blown away. I have never heard anything like it.

Rap, (which I fully admit that I don’t listen to often if at all) to me is about a guy essentially listing how many things he has, how many women he’s fucked, and how awesome he is. I’m not interested in that. I really don’t care. But this. Hamilton was rap and hip-hop and spoke to me because it was talking about history, about stories, about legacy. And I loved it.

I bought the soundtrack that night after watching a couple of videos on YouTube, and it has quickly became one of my favourite soundtracks. Then I realized that there was a book (could this get any better?) and I had to read Hamilton: The Revolution.

hamiltonFrom Goodreads:

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.

The book is beautiful. It’s a rather large book, and the paper is heavy. It has weight, and I like that because the story of an American Founding Father should have weight. The chapters are short, but there are a lot of images, and some full page or double page spreads of images that are in colour. The lyrics of each song are printed as they relate to each chapter. There are footnotes on the lyrics of each song explaining the thought process behind a line, or the reference or how it changed from the original. I love that behind the scenes look at things.

You also get introduced to the principal actors and hear a little bit of their stories, and their takes on the characters that they are portraying. I find that most interesting – the different things, or traits that they pick up in the people that they are playing and then use that one specific thing to relate, to understand this historical person.

Jeremy and Lin also explain more about these historical people and their relationships to each other. They make these people relatable. Understandable. They show that the Founding Fathers of America were flawed, had hopes and dreams, and different ways and thought processes of getting to a union, and most importantly, that that’s okay. The differences aren’t a hinderance. They make us better. They make us think in a new way. They challenge us.

One of the major things I love about this book and musical, is that Hamilton uses his words to evoke change. He writes like he’s “running out of time,” and he writes a lot. He has all of these ideas, thoughts, plans and he wants to do it all better than everyone else. He wants to make this union succeed and to do that he needs to convince people to his way of thinking. His words are his weapons. To me, when we live in a world of military might, when we converse in 140 characters, and when everything is instantaneous words seem to have less power almost. We use our words to talk about inconsequential things instead of using them to talk about things that really truly matter. And I also think because everything is so instantaneous we lose hope easily. We think that we can’t change anything. That this is the way things are and they are (often) terrible. I think musicals and books like Hamilton are imperative in reminding us that words to have power. They matter. And you can change the world with them. Just like Alexander Hamilton did.

One of my favourite lines in Hamilton is from a song that Eliza (Hamilton’s wife) sings called “Burn.” The line is “You built me palaces out of paragraphs…”.

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How beautiful is that? How amazing is it to use your words to build something? To create something? And that is the last thing I want to talk about in regards to this book: legacy. The musical and book talk a lot about legacy and stories. Eliza spent 50 years after Hamilton died making sure that his legacy wasn’t forgotten and in turn making her own. The Founding Fathers all have a legacy. It is in the country that they built, in the writings that they made helping to build it, and in the stories that have become canon for the American people of how it happened, and what they stood for. “That’s the real power of a legacy: We tell stories of people who are gone because like any powerful stories, they have the potential to inspire, and to change the world,” (Hamilton: The Revolution, page 227). I’m sure, as Lin even says, that Hamilton would never have thought that there would ever be a hip-hop/rap musical about him years down the line, and truthfully, on one in this generation thought so either. But here we are, with an amazing story and an amazing medium in which to tell it.

Other than this being an amazing piece of art Hamilton is also a shout to the American people to own their own stories, their own legacy. Alexander Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers started to build it, but the building isn’t done. There is much to do, and this musical and book and story is inspiring people to come together and make that happen. To create and evoke change – across all of the spectrums. That’s a powerful thing. And fittingly, that’s in the epilogue of this book: “The most important affinity that Hamilton will carry into its future isn’t a specific message…: It’s an underlying belief in stories, and their power to change the world,” (page, 285).

I highly recommend this book, and this soundtrack. I’m so excited for when I can see the musical. One day I will, until then I just have to…wait for it.

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5 Things: weekend away, zombies, Hamilton, art shows and pen pals

The 5 things that brought me joy this week:

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Last weekend I went up to Doug’s parents’ place with Doug, and two of his best friends. The views from the area are gorgeous and it’s so peaceful there.

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While at Doug’s parents’ place we went to the gun range. I have never shot a gun before, but this was my target. I’m thinking if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I’ll be okay.

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I’m currently reading Hamilton: The Revolution (about the musical). It’s really interesting, fun, and a beautiful book. Also, I love the soundtrack.

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I received a flyer in the mail today from the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) about a couple of exhibits that they’re having later on this year, and I’m super excited. There’s the Small Wonders one, which is what the above picture is about. And there’s also a showing of Monet and Van Gogh. Super stoked.

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I’m involved with Postcrossing, but Postcrossing also lets you make direct swaps with people, which is awesome because now I have a pen pal in the US. I’ve never had a pen pal before, so I’m really looking forward to this.

As always, my 5 Thing is inspired by Cupcakes and Cashmere, which is a great blog and something that you should check out if you haven’t already.

 

5 Things: walks, books, musicals, and colouring

My 5 Things this week, is as ever, inspired by Emily and Cupcakes and Cashmere.

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Last weekend I hung out with my friends Carmen and Sarah, and we went to the east end of Toronto to have lunch, do a little shopping and to take a nice walk. This picture is from our walk in Glen Stewart park. It’s completely gorgeous and very peaceful.

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Last weekend I also went and saw Matilda the musical with my mom at the Ed Mirvish theatre. It was very cute, and I loved the story that Matilda told about the escape artist and the acrobat. The girl can definitely tell a tale. It also makes me want to read Matilda.

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The best boyfriend in the world (aka Doug) order me the new Harry Potter for my birthday back in March. He picked it up for me while I was at Matilda and dropped it off at my place, along with a chocolate glazed donut (my favourite), with a note on the bag that said, “because power reading needs a little energy xoxoxoxo.” How awesome is he?! Also, my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming on Tuesday!

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I know that some people find adult colouring ridiculous, however, I find that it really helps me when my anxiety kicks in. This is one that I’ve been working on for a night or two, and I do it while I watch tv. I find that it gives my brain something else to concentrate on (because sometimes tv isn’t enough to keep my attention) and it also gives my hands something to do. It’s incredibly relaxing.

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My two books that I’m currently reading! I’ve just started both of them, and I’m excited for them. They should be really good!

5 Things: Soundtracks, books, blogs, postcards & girlfriends

I follow a blog called Cupcakes and Cashmere, which is a lifestyle blog. Each week, Emily, who runs the blog posts her “Five Things“. It’s a series that she does weekly about five things that have essentially brought her joy during the week. I love this series on her blog, so I thought with her as my inspiration, I would start my own 5 Things.

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Hamilton has been on my radar, but after the Tony’s I got very excited about it, and bought the soundtrack. I’m totally in love with it, and I really hope that it comes to Toronto. Some of my favourite songs at the moment are “Alexander Hamilton”, “Helpless”, “Satisfied”, and “Wait for It.”

 

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I signed up for this thing called PostCrossing, which lets you send postcards around the world to different people. You create a profile on the site, and once you have you request to send a postcard. The site generates a profile for you to send a postcard to as well as a code. You write your postcard, put the code somewhere on it and mail it off. When that person receives the postcard, they enter the code into the website, which registers the postcard as received and then you are eligible to receive a postcard in return. So far I’ve received a postcard from New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and the third that I just received today is from Germany. In each postcard I send, I recommend a book to the person. What can I say I love getting people to read 🙂

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My wonderful and amazing boyfriend started his own blog (he says I inspired him) called Modern Day Warrior, which is about his journey in karate as well as thoughts on life. You should definitely check it out.

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My new stack of library books arrived this week. I love putting books on hold and then having them arrive for me to just pick up. I’ve already read Brokedown Cowboy, which was really good, and I’ll have a review up soon for it. Right now I’m reading The Girl From The Savoy.  It’s a book I’m reading for my book club, and isn’t something that I would pick up for myself but I’m enjoying it so far.

 

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Tonight is Girl’s Night! I don’t have a picture from it because it hasn’t happened yet. This is a picture of us from the last girl’s night. There will be food, drinks, and dessert (I made peach crumble! – look for that blog post on Sunday) and lots of girl talk and laughs. So excited!

Happy Friday everyone!