• Zach

A Review of Hamilton -They Did Not Throw Away Their Shot

I was introduced to the soundtrack of Hamilton long before I ever had the chance to see the stage production. I bought the album on a whim when I saw that it was number one on iTunes. I've always been a big theater nerd, so whenever a Broadway show hits mainstream success, I will most certainly check it out. What started as an impulse buy turned quickly into an obsession between my wife and I. Many a long car trip was passed with off-key duets between the two of us as we worked to learn every lyric on the nearly three-hour-long soundtrack. This was no mean feat. With lines like: 

"I'm in the cabinet. I am complicit in watching him grabbin' at power and kiss it If Washington isn't gon' listen to disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: This kid is out!"

Delivered with lighting fast precision by Daveed Diggs' Thomas Jefferson. We must have listened to the record hundreds of times before we were able to sing it a fluidly.  . 

For the uninitiated, "Hamilton: An American Musical" tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America. Beyond his political prowess, the achievements of this man are incredible. In addition to being invaluable to George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Alexander founded the New York Post, the Coast Guard, and two of America's centralized banks. All of these are at least touched on in some capacity during the film. 

Based on the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The film begins with an orphaned Hamilton as he arrives in New York City to make a new life. From a young age, Alexander had been plagued by trials and misfortune. His father abandoned him, his mother died of a horrible disease, a hurricane destroyed what little he had, and his life seemed otherwise helpless. Until Hamilton shows his aptitude as a writer, he pens a letter to the citizens of his native Caribbean town of Nevis. The people were so affected by his story that they polled their money together to send Hamilton to the colonies to make a name for himself. 

During the early days of the American Revolution, Hamilton begins to make waves. Hamilton's greatest strength (and arguably his biggest weakness) is his willingness to boldly (and loudly) speak up for what he believes. This character trait soon places him on the radar to the film's main antagonist and narrator, the reserved Aaron Burr. 

His ability to argue the American cause and his skill as a writer soon catches the attention of General George Washington. Washington asks Hamilton to help him by being his Secretary and most trusted confidant, a position Hamilton takes. In addition to being an indispensable asset to Washington, Young Alexander proves himself on the battlefield. By the end of the war, Hamilton is famous for being a war hero and Washington's "Right-hand man." 

During the war, Alexander meets and marries the beautiful Elizabeth Schuyler. It is from her that Hamilton's passion is genuinely seen as he courts her with the same intensity that he shows towards any aspect of his professional life. Elizabeth becomes pregnant with their son Phillip, giving Hamilton another reason to fight to make a name for himself. He will do whatever it takes to make a good life for his wife and son. 

Following the American victory over Brittain, Hamilton goes to New York, where he begins to work as a lawyer with his friend/nemesis/rival Aaron Burr. Soon Alexander surpasses Burr (much to Burr's annoyance) and is asked to help form America. He is invited to the Constitutional Convention as a New York delegate, and he helps write the Federalist Papers defending the U.S. Constitution. He is eventually called into the front row of politics by George Washington himself. 

I should mention that all of this takes place in the first act of the two-act play. 

Act two opens with America struggling as a new country and finding her bearings. Hamilton wants a large centralized government that assumes the state's war debts and unites the nation. This is in exact opposition to Alexander's political adversaries James Maddison and Thomas Jefferson. They see Hamilton's plan as a danger to independence as it would considerably increase the government's size. With Maddison and Jefferson opposing Hamilton's plan, his political career is thrown into jeopardy. 

Obsessing over getting his plan through congress, finds Hamilton alone in New York while his family is upstate on vacation. In this vulnerable and stressful state, Alexander is seduced into an affair with the down on her luck, Maria Reynolds. This affair soon catches the attention of Reynolds's husband, who begins extorting the founding father.  

On the political front, Hamilton is much more successful. He compromises with Maddison and Jefferson. Jefferson and Maddison agree to help Hamilton get his debt plan through, while Alexander agrees to help get the capital placed in Virginia. This agreement doesn't sit well with Jefferson, Maddison, and Burr (who was elected as a New York Senator after beating Hamilton's father-in-law). The three agree to work together to bring down Alexander. 

The trio discovers that Hamilton has been regularly paying money to Maria Reynold's husband to keep their affair secret. Assuming that Hamilton was making these payoffs with government funds, they confront him in an effort to get Alexander to drop out of the political spotlight. Hamilton, a meticulous record-keeper, proves that the payments were being made from his own pocket the three back down, but this victory comes at a cost. Jefferson, Maddison, and Burr now know Hamilton's most intense and most humiliating secret. 

Fearing this information will be used as blackmail Hamilton decides to expose his infidelity in an extremely public way. He details the affair and publishes it in a document known as "The Reynold's Pamphlet" to save his public reputation. Still, he fails to realize how this publication would humiliate his wife. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton is heartbroken, angry, and betrayed. The couple separate and Hamilton is reduced to sleeping in his office. Meanwhile, Jefferson, Madison, and Burr are celebrating the fact that Hamilton has destroyed any further political aspirations.  

Alexander's son, Philip, is all grown up and a recent graduate of King's College. He is on a mission to defend his father's name after George Eacker slandered Alexander during a speech he gave. Philip challenges Eacker to a duel, which is accepted. Before the fight, Alexander tells Philip not to kill George but do the honorable thing and throw away his shot.

On the dueling grounds, Philip follows his father's advice, but before the count finishes, George Eacker draws on the young Hamilton and shoots him. Alexander and Elizabeth rush to the side of their wounded child and are there as Philip breaths his last.

 Mourning their significant loss, Elizabeth and Alexander shrink away from public life. The death of Philip causes Alexander to realize what is really imortant, and he goes back to Elizabeth, who forgives him. The couple reconciles. 

Burr and Jefferson are running against each other during the 1800 presidential election. Their campaigns come to a close, and they both receive the same amount of electoral delegates. Deadlocked they seek Alexander’s help knowing that Hamilton's opinion is strong enough to sway the public’s opinion. It falls on Alexander's shoulders to choose who will be the third president of the United States. Hamilton picks Jefferson, stating that (although he disagrees with him) Jefferson stands up for what he believes in. Burr's reserved nature and indecisiveness cost him the presidency. 

Of course, Burr blames Hamilton for his political failures and challenges him to a duel. Hamilton accepts, and the two travel to Weehawken, New Jersey. Burr assumes that Alexander intends to kill him by the way Hamilton methodically inspects his pistol. When the count reaches ten, Hamilton aims at the sky while Burr aims at his nemesis. Hamilton is struck between the ribs and dies. 

Hamilton is made a martyr while Burr is turned into a pariah. It is only after the fight that Burr realizes his mistake, that the world had enough room for both Hamilton and him. He regrets his choice and mourns the loss of Alexander. Elizabeth takes it upon herself to tell her husband's story, and the play ends with her summarizing Alexander's achievements and legacy. 

The character Hamilton, is played marvelously by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also wrote and composed the production). Knowing how obsessive Hamilton was to make a name for himself and leaving a legacy, I am sure that the real Hamilton, if alive today, would be thrilled to know that he is at the center of one of the most successful stage productions of all time.

The character Hamilton is played marvelously by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also wrote and composed the production). Knowing how obsessive Hamilton was to make a name for himself and leaving a legacy, I am sure that the real Hamilton, if alive today, would be thrilled to know that he is at the center of one of the most successful stage productions of all time.e a lie, nothing in this world is perfect, but Hamilton is pretty close. 

As far as a Christian perspective is concerned, lessons on vengeance and pride are taught. As well as a commentary on the dangers of being so caught up in your work that you let what is essential pass you by. The heartbreak of adultery is also on full display.

That being said, the show focusses on the story and history instead of preaching morality to the audience. It‘s less interested in teaching lessons and more focused on educating us about the fascinating Hamilton.

The film does contain some swearing, so it earns its PG-13 rating. Although, the language throughout the show is nothing compared to any modern rap song one may hear on the radio. Guns are shown, and there are two on-screen deaths, but the violence is pantomimed and no blood is shown. There is some sexual content. There are some suggestive lyrics, and it describes the act and fallout of adultery, but there is no nudity. 

All in all, Hamilton is the next best thing to seeing the show live. It is funny, emotional, educational, and entertaining. I have to take off a point for the vulgarity, but the language used is nothing more, and probably less, than what can be heard on network television.

I give it a Certified Righteous Rating of 9 out of 10.

Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+

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