Michelle Obama said of the musical Hamilton, "I'm sitting in the theatre, watching it when suddenly I realize: This might be the best piece of art I've ever seen in my life. Ever."
Similarly, I feel this IS the best story, not just the best soundtrack of a Broadway production, I've ever heard told. Ever
I listened to it for the first time a month ago on a very, very long drive up 95 thru Jersey, through that amazing, exciting NYC where You Can Be a New Man. It was beyond entertainment, it was transformative. A historical story of our country's roots to modern day political challenges that loom just as large today as they did then.
It is important to listen to the CD as a captive audience like you'd watch a movie on the big screen --all at once, with perhaps only an intermission taken between the two CDs.
It helped that I'd already watched the PBS film about the making of Hamilton, but I had no idea of all the emotions and ground it would cover: Love story plus triangles, political debates with nuanced heroes, heroines, villians in shades of gray.
I went to University of Virginia where Thomas Jefferson was lauded as a hero... this soundtrack compelled me to research him more and see why he was at odds with Hamilton in so many debates, but also "Jefferson in Paris" and learn that Sally Hemings was 30 (!) years younger than he and only 16 when he got her pregnant for the first of many times (fathering 6 children). Meanwhile, our hero Hamilton was anti-slave when few were calling out the abomination... and yet he also admired and served as right hand man to founding father General George Washington, slave owner.
And the Skyler sisters! What beautiful voices and personalities! Their depiction MAKES the story. The actions of the founding fathers suddenly become interesting because of the women they are bragging to, gold digging, seducing, coming home to, betraying. Fascinating stories...all. We can fully imagine the men and women of the times as real people with the same emotions and problems and butterflies in their stomachs as we have, maybe for the first time.
And this story succeeds in is making rap fans of people like me who thought I didn't like it (the brilliant instrumentals help and the mixing it up with Jazz and pop. King George especially in his Beatles-like catchy tunes and hillarious words and punchlines that made me LOL.)
I REALLY can't wait to see the play, but I'm glad I listened to this first. It is such a singular pleasure of the hearing senses, I can only imagine it would be overwhelming to ALSO try to also SEE and try to focus on the words as well as the choreography and costumes and staging of the play.
I listened to this in total from start to finish 4 times on that very long road trip and its return, sharing it with my 19 year old daughter on the return trip and she, like me, loved it and now can't wait to see the show. Because she knew its style of music better than I she pointed out Rap Battles and artists some songs styles were imitating.
Since then I've subscribed to a Hamilton podcast and checked out the Hamilton Revolution book about the making of the musical...all send me back to the CD for yet another listen to my favorite songs and increasing my anticipation to see the show itself.
It truly is a revolutionary work of art. You've got to hear --start to finish--to appreciate how Lin Manuel Miranda makes these characters in history come alive and makes us see how much we still have in common with them, from ambition, friendships and love, grieving our losses, working hard before we run out of time, failing, forgiving, and making fatal "damn fool" mistakes--like Aaron Burr--despite all our best intentions.