CMU School of Drama

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A music critic goes to 'Hamilton'

Chicago Tribune: At times, "Hamilton" is one of those rare plays that makes you think that Broadway may yet use the language of contemporary music as something more than just an add-on or a flavor. At other moments, it slips backward, as if hip-hop never happened.

"Hamilton" is being called a "hip-hop musical." Even though it's not the first Broadway play to incorporate hip-hop, it certainly is by far the most popular. Greeted with record-busting ticket sales and lavished with awards — including a Pulitzer Prize — "Hamilton" has been praised as a groundbreaking work of art. It certainly has its moments, but ultimately doesn't go far enough in embracing what hip-hop represents. In a musical that portrays hip-hop as the language of a new country, a new way of thinking — the future, in other words — "Hamilton" consigns its female leads to the past.


Simone Schneeberg said...

I have mixed opinions on Greg Kot's views of what Hamilton does to its female characters. It is true that they are largely secondary to the plot, to the revolutionary men. However, this feels somewhat appropriate, as the show is about the growing politics of a new nation, which women were unfortunately often left out of. I see where he is coming from though. In a show designed to bring things to the present, break boundaries with hip hop, celebrate immigrants, and people of color (even though they are playing white men), one would hope and expect the women would get the same treatment. I largely agree when concerned with Eliza; she's like every other Broadway woman, singing high, slow, and sappily about love and pain. Angelica, however, gets much more of a character and much more modern music to sing. Satisfied plays with electronic effects and portions of rap among sections that are more familiar vocalizations. "The Schuyler Sisters" is also a great song for women. It gives the three girls power in their independence as they walk the city and gives them part of the fresh musical style. I do agree that Act 2 of the show could use more of that.

Claire Farrokh said...

It's been many weeks since I last commented on two Hamilton articles in the same week. I'll never forget the week I wrote all five comments about Hamilton winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Anyway I'm not sure if I agree with what this article is saying. The songs and styles of all of Hamilton match different aspects of their characters. Jefferson sings and raps interchangeably because he's a very smooth talking guy with lots of stuff to say. Hamilton just always raps because he never shuts up. Eliza has a lot of singing and more emotional songs because her character is much softer and more emotional. Angelica raps in addition to singing to echo her strength and general independence. Miranda has also said in the past that he would fully be in favor of women playing the founding fathers, it would just be a pain in the ass to change the key of the music.