If you haven’t heard of Hamilton, then you must’ve just woken up from a two-year-long coma. Welcome back. Musicals now contain hip hop and rap music and center around a US history lesson. Sounds weird, right? Well, it actually works really well. So well, that unless you’re a celebrity, the President, or earned a boatload of money while you were in your coma, you won’t be seeing Hamilton on Broadway anytime soon. Because this show is always sold out.
So until the Hamilton craze dies down (give it a dozen or so years) and you can see it live, you’ll have to live vicariously through the cast recording, interviews, and the rare song performance at various award shows. If you’re as obsessed with Hamilton as we are, you’re going to love these 15 facts you might not know about everyone’s favorite musical. You’re welcome.
17. Your Next iTunes Purchase: The Hamilton Mixtape
Way back in the late 2000’s, when Lin Manuel-Miranda was still working on what would become the greatest hip hop musical of our time, he thought he was working on a mixtape. Sure, the story of Secretary-Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton, was obviously begging to be told through hip hop and rap music. But was it ready to become a musical? Lin wasn’t so sure. Luckily, some wise people convinced him that Hamilton was ready for Broadway and, more importantly, that Broadway was ready for Hamilton. But the idea of a mixtape never quite left Lin’s mind. So, now we get both! On December 2nd (2016), The Hamilton Mixtape will be released featuring covers, remixes, and songs inspired by the story of Alexander Hamilton and performed by some of music’s greatest, such as Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and The Roots.
16. #EduHam: Hamilton For The Kids
— NYC Public Schools (@NYCSchools) April 13, 2016
So how do 100,000 US high school students get to see Hamilton before you do for only $10 per seat? EduHam, that’s how. EduHam is an initiative, started by Lin, and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation. The cast puts on special matinee performances of Hamilton for an audience of high school students from participating schools. Before the show starts, students are invited on stage to show off their own creativity in rap, poetry, song or speech. The students also get to take part in a Q&A with members of the cast before the performance. To make sure things aren’t all fun and games, the Gilder Lehrman Institute has developed a Hamilton Student Performance Study Guide with curriculum that relates the show back to in-class lessons. Any chance we can go back to high school and get in on this deal?
15. There’s A Cabinet Battle
Guess what? There was a third cabinet battle! We could’ve watched Hamilton serve up some wise witticisms to Jefferson one more time. But alas, it was cut. The cabinet battle that never was centered on the issue of slavery. Jefferson, of course, was opposed to emancipation. He suggested they wait until the 1800s to talk about freeing the slaves and questioned Hamilton on how he was planning to compensate slave owners. Hamilton shot back some harsh words that would surely have gotten the audience on his side. However, he took a cheap shot at Jefferson in bringing up his mistresses, which made Jefferson hint at Alexander’s own affair. In the end, Washington, a notable slave owner himself, decided the issue was too volatile and that a decision couldn’t be reached. Darn!
14. Ham4Ham: See Hamilton For Only $10
Ham4Ham is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, where people have the opportunity to see Hamilton for the price of a ham, $10. Hence, Ham4Ham. Also, the bill on which Alexander Hamilton sits. So before every show, 21 front row tickets are up for grabs for only $10 each. Back in Hamilton‘s early days, this lottery took place on the streets outside of the theater. Hundreds of people would pack onto the streets for a slim chance to nab a ticket to Hamilton. And then, the Ham4Ham shows started. As a reward for the many lottery entrants who would not win, Lin and friends began putting on short performances. Lin would invite fellow cast members, Broadway stars, and celebrities to join him on the steps of the theater to perform songs, raps, and speeches-much to the delight of the lottery audience that grew from hundreds to thousands. With the thousands of people blocking the streets and New York winter growing strong, the lottery moved online but the Ham4Ham performances still continue.
13. “It’s Quiet Uptown” Is More Gut-Wrenching Than You Think
So, “It’s Quiet Uptown” is already a painful song. I get teary eyed just listening to it and I can’t even imagine having to perform it! But the song got all the more powerful when things got personal back at the Public Theatre, Hamilton‘s Off-Broadway home. Oskar Eustis is the artistic director at the Public Theatre. In November 2014, Oskar and his wife, Laurie, lost their 16 year old son. Upon learning of his death, Lin sent the Eustis family the demo recording of “It’s Quiet Uptown.” He told them that if art can help us to grieve and mourn, then they should lean on it. Oskar and Laurie listened to that recording everyday for the first week following their son’s death. They returned to the theater a few weeks later to watch the cast sing through the entire album, tears streaming when they got to “It’s Quiet Uptown.”
12. There’s A Secret Song
If you only have the cast album on repeat but you haven’t seen Hamilton on Broadway, you are missing out. Because there’s a secret song! And, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the song where (spoiler alert, if you’re behind on your US history) John Laurens dies. In “Tomorrow There’ll Be More Of Us”, Eliza tells Hamilton that he has received a letter. Hamilton, assuming it’s another letter from Laurens, waves her off. She informs him that the letter is actually from John Laurens’ father. Hamilton reads it and finds out that John Laurens was killed in battle. There is a tense moment of grief. Turns out, Hamilton and Laurens exchanged many letters during their time. And those letters tended to be just as flirtatious as the ones he was sending to Eliza and, later, Angelica. So if Hamilton and Laurens did have a little something on the side, the news of his death is all the more heart-breaking.
11. Hamilton Got Obama’s Seal of Approval in 2009
Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited to the White House way back in 2009-fresh off the success of his first musical, In The Heights. He was asked to perform a song that represented America for the President, First Lady, and a bunch of other important people. So Lin decided to test out some new material. He informed the crowd that he was going to share a song from a hip hop album he was working on about someone who embodies hip hop…. Secretary-Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton. Everyone laughed. And then two minutes later, after Lin performed a first draft of what would become the opening number of the musical, no one was laughing. They were mesmerized. They were applauding. And they were reserving their tickets to see Hamilton in its Broadway debut. We have chills!
10. Taking A Few Creative Licenses
Yes, Hamilton is a musical based on historical facts. And it does stay remarkably true to those facts! Lin even quotes directly from speeches and papers published at the time (this guy is a genius). But, like all creative works, Lin does take a few sidesteps away from the truth. Take the second song of the show, “Aaron Burr, Sir.” This song is where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr meet for the first time. But the thing is, this never happened in real life. Lin made the whole meeting up! And remember how impressed Hamilton was that Burr was able to finish school so quickly? Well, Burr neglected to point out that his father was the president of the college, so he may have had a bit of a leg up. And lastly, Hamilton never did punch the bursar. Sorry to burst your bubble.
9. Lin-Manuel Miranda: Busiest Man On The Planet
Lin has revealed that the most autobiographical line in the musical is, “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.” Like Hamilton, Lin feels like he’s running against the clock. That might explain his insane ambition and drive. Not only did the man write two Tony-award winning musicals but he starred in them too. And while performing in Hamilton, Lin was also writing the music for the Disney movie, Moana, and putting together The Hamilton Mixtape. Add to that a stint hosting Saturday Night Live and a role in the upcoming live action Mary Poppins movie, and it’s obvious that Lin’s legacy is looking pretty solid. Does this guy even sleep? Even if he never wrote another piece of music again and simply decided to stay home with his family or take up competitive thumb wrestling, we would still consider Miranda one of the greats. Only Lin, please don’t do that! We need more of your genius!
8. Where Did Peggy Go?
You might notice that everyone’s favorite Schulyer sister, Peggy, disappears after Act 1. While she didn’t do a whole lot in the first act, you certainly never forgot that she was there. And then in Act 2, she’s mysteriously gone and the actress who plays her takes up the mantle of Maria Reynolds. So what happened to Peggy? Well, unfortunately, Peggy didn’t make quite the mark in our history books as her sisters did. At the age of 25, Peggy scandalously married a younger man. Her husband was only nineteen when they eloped. Things worked out okay for a few years though. They had a couple of children, with only one surviving to adulthood, and then Peggy became ill around her 40th birthday. Alexander Hamilton was actually by her bedside when she passed. That guy really had a thing for the Schulyer sisters, didn’t he?
7. Another Love Triangle?
So, the big love triangle of Hamilton is obviously Alexander, Eliza, and Angelica. But did you know that there was actually another love triangle brewing? That’s right, there seemed to be something happening between Angelica and Jefferson! Historically speaking, the two met while they were both in France and traded letters back and forth, much like Angelica and Alexander did. Who knew pen pals could be so steamy? Lin reveals that he did have a few lines about this in the show (which Jefferson drops during one of the cabinet battles), but they had to be cut out. I’m sure no one would’ve minded an extra song or two in Hamilton to explore this. Can you imagine how rapid-fire a song with Jefferson, Hamilton, and Angelica rapping would be?
6. Hugh Laurie Inspired “You’ll Be Back”
That’s right. Dr. House himself was the inspiration for King George’s famous ballad about the US getting out from under England’s rule. Speaking of, Hugh Laurie would probably make a pretty good King George if he ever wanted to test out his musical chops on Broadway. I’m sure Lin would be into it.
Anyway, way back when Lin was working on the TV show House with Hugh Laurie, they went out for a drink. Lin shared that he was writing music for the Hamilton show and needed to write a breakup song from King George to the United States. Without missing a beat, Hugh wagged his finger and joked, “You’ll be back!” Lin laughed and they finished their drinks. But something about those three words delivered in Hugh Laurie’s flawless British accent struck a cord for Lin. He had his King George song.
5. No Guns At The Tony’s
The Tony Awards, or the Hamil-tonys as they were being called, happened one night after the tragic nightclub shootings in Orlando. Many of the presenters and award winners called attention to this massacre and pledged their support to the victims and their families. However, none were quite as poetic as Lin’s tribute. In his acceptance speech for Best Musical (because of course Hamilton was going to win), Lin delivered some beautiful words and got very emotional on the line, “Because love is love is love is love.” Further to that, Lin decided that in their performance, the cast would not use their gun props, out of respect for the shooting incident. The power of that performance where the actors mimed using guns was brilliant. And clearly the voters agreed. Hamilton walked home with a staggering number of awards, including Best Musical, and top acting honors in categories where Hamilton actors were pitted against each other.
4. We Almost Didn’t Have Renee Elise Goldsberry
Renee Elise Goldsberry, who played the original Angelica Schulyer, almost didn’t audition for Hamilton. Twice. The first time her agents told her about the part, Renee and her husband had just adopted a baby girl. They decided she couldn’t take on any project unless it was as monumental as the addition they had just made to their family. So Renee, unaware of the power of Hamilton, declined. But her agents persisted. They sent her the demo and character description. Upon hearing “Satisfied”, which Lin calls the most difficult song in the show, Renee was stunned. There was no way she could learn it in time for tomorrow’s audition. Again, she hesitated. Luckily for us, and for Renee, she eventually decided to go through with it. And, of course, Lin and company were blown away. We had our Angelica. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. Lin Wrote “Wait For It” On The Subway
Sometimes brilliance hits whenever it wants to. In the shower, while you’re making your toast or even when you’re riding the L train. Well, that’s what happened to Lin when he got inspired to write, arguably, the best song in the whole entire musical. So a few years ago, Lin was on the subway on the way to a friend’s birthday. And just as the doors swung shut, it hit him. “Wait For It” began to form in his head. As soon as Lin got to his stop, he sang the melody into his iPhone and hurried off to the party. He wished his friend a happy birthday, chugged half a beer, and jumped back on the train to finish writing the rest of that song. Sometimes Broadway > birthdays, right? When you’re Lin, you gotta make the tough calls and I’m sure his friend didn’t mind.
2. Everyone’s Favorite Line….
Everyone’s favorite line of the show is almost undisputedly, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” This line is sung by Hamilton and Lafayette shortly after they come back from winning a battle. As a Caribbean native and a Frenchman, these two immigrants were leading the way to American revolution and emancipation. And this line still strikes a chord for many audiences today. Probably because it’s painfully true. So at every show, without fail, this line receives thunderous applause. It got to the point where the next few lines in the song got drowned out because the audience was too busy acknowledging the truth bomb that just got dropped. So what did they do? Well, they added in a few bars of music to give the audience time to settle down.
1. Lin Had A Baby During Pre-Production
Well Lin, and his beautiful wife Vanessa, had a baby. They had a son, Sebastian, in November 2014, a mere three months before Hamilton made its off-Broadway debut. Many assume that the touching song, “Dear Theodosia” must have been inspired by Sebastian’s birth. Well, that’s not true. It was actually inspired by the Mirandas’ dog. Which, if you’re a dog person like me, is still pretty touching. Especially when you learn how they got their dog. Lin and Vanessa were on vacation in the Dominican Republic when a small dog came up and bit Vanessa’s ankle. They agreed that if the dog came back the next day, they would take him home. Lo and behold, the dog returned and is now a proud member of the Miranda clan and answers to the name Tobillo, which means “ankle” in Spanish. Lucky pooch!
Source: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: The Revolution