Well, most of it. I was at the banquet for the Conference on Faith and History biennial meeting in Virginia Beach, VA and missed the first five minutes of Hamilton’s America tonight on PBS. Then after I burst into our hotel room and saw that Katie was watching, I just sat in rapturous joy for a few minutes…
…before remembering that my phone still had some battery left after a long day of live-tweeting #CFH2016 sessions. I was especially gratified anytime anyone on screen started reflecting not just on the details of Alexander Hamilton’s life and how it became a hip-hop musical, but on larger questions of history and how we make meaning of the past.
Yes, Thomas Kail majored in American history at Wesleyan University, which he attended with Lin-Manuel Miranda. And actor/history buff Christopher Jackson (“George Washington”) warmed my historian’s heart several times:
It was also interesting to hear Oskar Eustis (artistic director of the Off-Broadway theater where Hamilton held its initial run) compare what Miranda had done to what Shakespeare had done with his history plays: bring the past to life in language that speaks to the common people. And then there was Miranda sitting down to talk history and theatre with Stephen Sondheim and his librettist, John Weidman (another history major).
I probably could have done without quite as many cameos from former presidents and treasury secretaries — who seemed as interested in burnishing their legacies as the play was interested in the very notion of legacy — or from current senators:
Nonetheless, it was a terrific program: a film that had as much to say about creativity and collaboration as American history.
But seeing filmed performances of the play was also wonderful, especially since (like many fans) I’ve only heard the cast album. Two particular, rather dissimilar highlights from Act Two were the first cabinet rap battle (in which Hamilton takes on Jefferson and Madison) and the achingly beautiful song that follows the dueling death of the Hamiltons’ eldest son.