”How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” That is the central question the smash musical Hamilton asks of its protagonist, American founding father Alexander Hamilton—in the form of rap, of course. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who had previously seen success on Broadway in writing the music and lyrics to In the Heights, wrote the book, music and lyrics for Hamilton after reading Ron Chernow’s enormous biography on Alexander Hamilton. The music and lyrics primarily took the form of hip-hop, a style of music that long ago entered mainstream pop culture but had largely remained outside the world of musical theater. Furthermore, Miranda cast his show with actors of color in the roles of the white men and women that play leading parts in American history textbooks.
To say that audiences responded positively would be an understatement. When the show moved from to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre in August 2015, it ignited a fervor never before seen for a stage production. Ticket resale prices reached unprecedented heights, and lottery lines became must-see events in their own right. The cast album to the show gave Hamilton millions of fans who had never seen the play, becoming the highest-charting cast recording since 1963. Hamilton was nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards in 2016, and won a stunning 11 of them, including Best Musical.