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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.
Top customer reviews
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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!!!
This book is superb, and a perfect complement to the Cast Recording and live attendance at the show. It gives the reader insight into the details of the creative process by which the show was made, and I’m happy that so many talented people are credited.
The chapter titles and graphics style emulate that of the Enlightenment era, so it puts the reader in the mood for that period. In keeping with that timeline, photos show the costumes and staging (with ropes and wooden devices everywhere)—all the way down to the paperwork on George Washington’s desk (including his personalized wax stamp).
My decades spent in ballet class helped me appreciate how detail-oriented the dance/movement was presented. For instance, “Burr moves in straight lines because he see no options, and Hamilton moves in arcs, because he sees all the possibilities.”
I was happy to learn why the sheets of The Reynolds Pamphlet that end up in the audience (I caught a few during performances) are written in Latin. That’s done so that the audience won’t become too distracted in trying to read what it written on them while the show is going on. This worked because once I knew I couldn’t decipher what the text stated, my focus went completely back to the show.
The background on the musical numbers is well done, including how You’ll Be Back purposely pays tribute to the Beatles with riffs from Getting Better and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.
One of the first things I noticed when I opened the book randomly was the lyrics to Cabinet Battle #3, which contains the case against slavery. What a shame that didn’t make it into the musical. However, I believe there will be a recording release in the future. Glad to hear of Miranda’s admiration of both the musical 1776 and the HBO series on John Adams.
In addition, I like how Miranda describes how and why he took creative license when departing from historical facts. For example, he has Hamilton meet both Mulligan and Laurens early in the musical and ignored the fact that the Schuylers had sons. Miranda says, if you want to see a musical with 8 kids, go see The Sound of Music.
Much as I was disappointed to see One Last Ride changed to One Last Time, Miranda’s explanation of this contains sound reasoning. Aside from needing to reduce the length of the musical, the number condenses many aspects of Washington’s life more dramatically, and always leaves me in tears.
With all of those positives—I can name many more, but prior reviews have covered them well—I need to note a few flaws. Unfortunately, the book is obsessed with race. Whether it is Nuyorican, Latin, Black, Irish, Cuban, Asian, Jewish, or West Indian, it feels like you can’t go more than a few pages without being told about someone’s race. This is dismaying, since the content of one’s character is much more important than the color of one’s skin. This constant identification of one's race tends to deny the freely chosen actions that an individual takes which others of that same race might or might not have taken.
Also, though immigrants have certainly helped to make America the greatest country in world history, they are too broadly addressed in the book/musical. Hamilton’s success did not come from being an immigrant, but from being an individualist. He was likely the most consistent defender of individual rights in his era. Individualism is the only cure for racism, which stems from a collectivist, tribalist, view of human nature.
For example, Marquis de Lafayette became a hero during the individualist American Revolution, but he almost had his head chopped off during the collectivist French Revolution. Same person, same ideas. The fact that he was an immigrant was not essential to his achievement. Hamilton knew he would perish under the oppressive conditions in the Caribbean, where his ideas would not have been implemented. It was only the pro-reason, pro-individualism America that allowed orphan immigrants like him to rise up and make a difference.
I also disagree with the book’s criticism of Hamilton over the war bonds that Revolutionary War soldiers sold to speculators. The speculators faced great risk (as is often the case) in having those bonds pay off, since the odds of America winning the war were miniscule. If we lost the war, I don’t think anyone would have shed tears for the money the speculators lost. However, Hamilton upheld the sanctity of contract. That turned out to be a core principle of his brilliant financial system, which was based on the protection of individual rights.
On to a few material critiques: The first copy of the book we bought was not bound very well, as two pages near the end fell out immediately. The second copy had the pages lightly glued together, but they separated easily.
I purchased the audio book as well. That was enjoyable, but would be much better if Miranda (who does a great job reading all the footnotes) were to include the sentence that each footnote refers to. Instead, we hear his entertaining footnotes, but without reference to their source.
That said, I am elated with this book, and highly recommend it. It will enhance my experience for the next time I see the musical, whenever that is. THANK YOU!