I was lucky enough to catch a preview performance of Hamilton this weekend and despite all the hype that has been built around it, I really went in not knowing anything about the story. What is it actually about? It’s pretty complex American history stuff, so thought I would break it down for those of you, like me, that don’t know your American History too well.
***The following contains spoilers***
Alexander Hamilton was an orphan born out of wedlock in the West Indies. By the age of 19, he had made his way to America and was a dedicated supporter of American Independence. In the summer of 1776, Hamilton went to find politician Aaron Burr. Along with three other revolutionaries John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan, they dreamed of laying down their lives for their political cause. He married the wealthy Schuyler sister Eliza and they had a son, Phillip.
Hamilton accepted a job as George Washington‘s assistant but always wanted more control and command. After the Marquis de Lafayette persuaded France to join the American cause and the Continental Army became favoured, Washington and Lafayette realised they could only win the war by cutting off the British navy but needed Hamilton to make this happen. So they offered him his long-desired command and The Continental Army was victorious and American was freed from the British and King George.
Hamilton had an affair with a woman named Maria Reynolds and was blackmailed by her husband to pay him money regularly. Jefferson, Madison and Burr believed Hamilton was embezzling government money, so Hamilton had to admit to his affair with Maria Reynolds and his payments to James Reynolds. He published a public admission about the affair, hoping to snuff out rumours of embezzlement and save his political legacy. His political future was saved but his personal reputation was ruined.
Burr was envious of Hamilton’s power in the government and switched political parties, defeating Eliza’s father, Philip Schuyler, in a race for Schuyler’s seat in the Senate. This drove a wedge between Burr and Hamilton and in the presidential election of 1800, when Jefferson and Burr were tied to win, Hamilton endorsed Jefferson and not Burr. This caused understandable conflict between Hamilton and Burr and during a fight between the two, Alexander Hamilton died.
There is a lot more to the Musical than this but I would say this is the most important part of the story that you should be aware of before you go and see it. Once you are aware of these things it should be easier to follow the other parts of the story that happen.
Hamilton is written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. The show has been a smash hit on Broadway since opening in 2015 and looks set to be just as successful in London where it is currently in previews at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The entire current booking period is sold out. The show, which tells the stories of the founding fathers of America, has cast actors of colour in the lead roles to reflect modern day America.