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Hamilton: The Revolution Hardcover – April 12, 2016
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From School Library Journal
This glorious, oversize testament to the multiple Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton is a joy to anyone who loves the sound track or who has been lucky enough to score tickets to the show. Miranda's annotations are in the margins of the lyrics, which are usually overlaid on full-spread photographs of the cast. He explains the many homages to rappers of his youth, as well as why he used literary devices, changed music tempos, and added fiction when Ron Chernow's biography couldn't fill in the gaps. Thirty-two essays offer teens even more background knowledge of how the show was created and often include lyrics that were cut from the final show. Through interviews with cast members and mentors, readers will be engrossed in the narrative and listening along to the sound track. The line "Immigrants: We get the job done," from "Yorktown (the World Turned Upside Down)," stirs rousing applause during performances, and the revolutionary twist of nonwhite actors portraying the Founding Fathers will be inspiring to young people. VERDICT An uplifting, gorgeous, diverse, and emotional libretto that will be performed in high schools as soon as the rights are available, and a must-have for initiated and uninitiated alike.—Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL
About the Author
Jeremy McCarter wrote cultural criticism for New York magazine and Newsweek before spending five years on the artistic staff of the Public Theater, where he created, directed, and produced the Public Forum series. He served on the jury of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and is writing a book about young American radicals during World War One. He lives in Chicago.
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Book, Music, and Lyrics/Alexander Hamilton) is the Tony and Grammy award-winning composer-lyricist-star of Broadway's In the Heights--winner of four 2008 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Orchestrations, and Best Choreography with Miranda receiving the award for Best Score. Additionally, he is the co-composer and co-lyricist of Broadway's Tony-nominated Bring It On: The Musical and provided Spanish translations for the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story. Miranda, along with Tom Kitt, won the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy for Best Original Music and Lyrics for their work on the 67th Annual Tony Awards. In 2015, Miranda was named as a Fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He lives with his family in New York City.
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I'm fortunate enough to have seen "Hamilton" twice. I've read the Chernow biography, listened to the cast recording non-stop (ha) since September, and been an avid follower of Lin's tweets, Facebook posts, interviews, #Ham4Ham shows, and Genius annotations. I've been a musical theatre geek for five decades and have never felt this excitement about any show (with the possible exception of A Chorus Line). So when I heard months ago that Lin and former New York magazine drama critic Jeremy McCarter were putting together a book about the creation of "Hamilton," I pre-ordered my copy and started counting the days. Now it's here, and.... wow. Just wow.
Given the show's deserved status as a cultural phenomenon that will be playing to sold-out houses for years, it would have been easy to just throw together a "behind-the-scenes" book with a few interviews, toss in some publicity stills, and have a guaranteed best-seller. This "Hamiltome" couldn't be further from that. Among other delights, it includes: the full libretto of this sung-through (and rapped-through) show, with extensive annotations from LMM that give new insights, meaning, and historical context to the words that you might already know by heart; more than 30 essays about the cast members, the production team, the creative process, and the facts of Hamilton's life; copies of relevant historical documents referenced in the show; pages from LMM's notebooks with early drafts and outlines; and a stunningly beautiful array of production photographs, cast portraits, and backstage candids. And all of this is thoughtfully organized and packaged in a beautifully bound volume with ivory deckle-edged paper - a book like books used to be. (Trust me, this is one book you don't want to read on Kindle; it's actually a sensory experience to hold it and turn the pages.)
As McCarter notes in the Introduction, the title "Hamilton - The Revolution" has two meanings. There is the American Revolution that is brought to life in this show, and there is the revolution of the show itself - "a musical that changes the way that Broadway sounds, that alters who gets to tell the story of our founding, that lets us glimpse the new, more diverse America rushing our way." Do what you can to see "Hamilton," either on Broadway or when it comes to your town. It's unlike anything else. Until then, this book and the original cast recording will get you as close as possible to an orchestra seat at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Edited to add: and the dream is almost a reality... Used this gorgeous book to deliver surprise tickets to my niece who turned 18 today. I'm in New York and tonight's the night! AND, Miranda wins the Pulitzer on the same day. It's been a bit of a day!!!
Hamilton: A Revolution is unabashedly a book that's written to capitalize on the show's popularity, as well as the difficulty in seeing it. Filled with pictures of the production, the cast, the props, and more, the book provides a bit of soothing balm for those of us out in the rest of America who probably won't ever get to see the show on Broadway, and definitely not while Miranda is still playing the lead role. The fact that the book alternates between short essays and songs from the show allows the pictures to nicely complement the text at all times, giving the reader a sense of how the show might play out, and giving us the chance to pair images with the songs that so many of us already know by heart. More than that, though, they give you a sense of the care that went into the staging of the show; from the set to the costuming, from the insanely detailed props to the intricate stage layout, the book conveys the fact that the show is every bit as carefully crafted and intricately constructed as the album and the songs.
The essays only serve to back this up, too. By and large, the essays serve as a chronological tracking of the birth of the show, beginning with Miranda's initial songs, moving through the famous White House performance, and following the story all the way through the premiere and beyond. Meanwhile, the book's structure - the aforementioned alternating between songs and essays - allows some essays to pair more directly with certain songs, focusing on key roles, casting decisions, historical craft, and more. It all comes together to make something more than your usual "behind the scenes" book, instead giving you a rich portrait of the show, the history, the key players, and more.
But let's be clear: the main draw for many people (myself included) are the lyrics and annotations by Miranda. Even with all the time I've spent on Genius reading the show's annotations can't replace the glee of reading the lyrics in a beautifully made book, and getting to savor all of Miranda's wonderful prose - the wordplay, the historical allusions, the shout-outs to old school rap and Broadway staples, all of it. And better still are Miranda's annotations, which eschew the things I already knew in favor of personal commentary, silly asides, mentions of his favorite parts of the show, and more. Rather than just being a director's commentary sort of thing, the annotations feel more personal and engaging, giving me the sense once again that Miranda isn't just unfairly brilliant; he's also funny, engaging, thoughtful, and incredibly personable.
I could also mention how beautiful the book is - not just the pictures, but the beautiful cover, the intentionally "ancient" feel that makes it feel like a Revolutionary War tome - but really, here's the thing. Do you love Hamilton? If the answer is "yes," then you'll really love this. If the answer is "no"...well, what's wrong with you, then? (Acceptable answers include "I haven't heard it" and...well, that's about it.)