Rhapsodic Facts About Hamilton: An American Musical

April 2, 2018 | Henry Gomes

Rhapsodic Facts About Hamilton: An American Musical

"I’m just like my country—I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I am not throwing away my shot."

Since first hitting the stage in 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical has become a major pop culture phenomenon. The hip-hop musical about American founding father Alexander Hamilton has captivated audiences and aspiring audience members alike. While tickets for this show are hard to come by, these 42 interesting facts are just a scroll away.

Hamilton: An American Musical Facts

1. Collegiate Start

Hamilton was first staged as a workshop production in 2013 at the Powerhouse Theatre on the campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Notable cast members of the workshop performances included Utkarsh Ambudkar playing the role of Aaron Burr and Anika Noni Rose playing Angelica Schuyler.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

2. History Viewed Through The Lens of The Present

One of the great achievements of Hamilton is making the story of the founding of the United States relevant to the story of the United States today. One way Miranda achieved this was purposely casting non-Caucasian actors in the roles of Caucasian historical figures. He explained, “Our goal was: This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance—our story should look the way our country looks.”

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

3. The Room(s) Where it Happened

The musical premiered off-Broadway at The Public Theatre in January 2015. It made the move to “The Great White Way” in July 2015, premiering at the Richards Rodgers Theatre, where it is still currently playing. Hamilton is also currently being staged at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago and the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

4. No Dialogue

The musical does not contain any dialogue and is entirely sung through, or more accurately sung and rap through. Across the two acts of the productions, there are 47 musical numbers. Other fully sung-through musicals include Cats, Evita, and Rent.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures


5. Wordy and Speedy

According to an article on FiveThirtyEight, the fast rhythmic hip-hop pace of Hamilton has a staggering and unprecedented 20,520 words and delivered at a dizzying pace of 144 words per minute. If Hamilton were to be performed at the pace of a typical Broadway show, it would be about four to six hours long. Thanks in part to Lafayette’s ultra-fast rap verses (performed by Daveed Diggs in the original cast recording), the quickest song in the show is “Guns and Ships.” Those rap verses average to 6.3 words per second. FiveThirtyEight only found one comparable verse from a fellow Broadway musical—the mental breakdown verses in “Not Getting Married Today” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which averages 6.2 words per second.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, Rachel Lovinger

6. Lazy Sunday

Surprisingly, Hamilton is not the first time Alexander Hamilton has been referenced in rap form. In 2005, Saturday Night Live released their first Digital Short—“Lazy Sunday.” The song—written and produced by The Lonely Island and performed by Lonely Island member Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell—revolves around the various errands the duo have to perform before watching the film Chronicles of Narnia. Throughout the day, the duo find themselves spending copious amounts of $10 bills, which feature the visage of Hamilton. This is referenced in the lyrics—“I’ll reach in my pocket,/Girl actin’ like she never see a ten befo’/It’s all about the Hamiltons, baby!” and “Roll up to the theatre; ticket buying, what we’re handlin’/You can call us Aaron Burr from the way we’re dropping Hamiltons.”

Hamilton Musical FactsLazy Sunday (SNL), NBC Studios

7. First Performance at the White House

In 2009, Miranda was invited to perform at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and Spoken Word. Although he was originally slated to perform material from his first musical In the Heights, he instead performed an early version of “Alexander Hamilton”—which would go onto be the opening number of Hamilton. Accompanied by Alex Lacamoire on piano, Miranda’s spirited performance of the song as Aaron Burr received a standing ovation from an audience that included President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikipedia

8. Tony Award Records

In 2016, Hamilton set the record for most Tony nominations for a musical with 16. It would go onto win 11 awards—including Best Musical—just one short of the record 12 wins of The Producers. The cast of Hamilton performed a medley of “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” and closed out the awards ceremony with a performance of “The Schuyler Sisters.”

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

9. Not Throwing Away His “Shot” to Shoutout Rap Legends

The song “My Shot” from the musical’s first act contains two references to classic ‘90s New York City rap songs. First, the song interpolates the “I’m 19, but my mind is old” line from Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Part 2.” Also, the song includes a line where Hamilton rhythmically spells out his first name Alexander in the same fashion as The Notorious B.I.G. spells out Notorious in “Going Back to Cali.”

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures


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10. Queen B is a Fan of King G

During its initial run with its original cast, it was common for celebrities to meet with the performers backstage. One such celebrity Hamilton fan to stop by back stage after the show was Beyoncé. She complimented actor Jonathan Groff, who played the role of King George III, on his special royal entrance walk and stated that she looked forward to incorporate the walk into her own performances.

Hamilton Musical FactsGetty Images


11. Burr or Hamilton?

As the man behind the music and lyrics of Hamilton, Miranda had the opportunity to decide to cast himself as either the titular Hamilton or Aaron Burr. He seemed to waver between the two. For instance, in the first performance of “Alexander Hamilton” at the White House he played the part of Burr. He eventually decided to play Hamilton. Miranda explained that he was drawn to the title role, “I get to be more impulsive than I really am—it’s taking off the reins off your id for two and a half hours.”

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

12. A Show Before the Show

Securing a ticket for Hamilton is not an easy endeavor. Like most popular Broadway shows, during the first few months of production Hamilton did have a lottery for a few tickets just prior to the show. Before the lottery took place, cast members from the production entertained the crowds eager to get their hands off on one of those precious tickets. Dubbed Ham4Ham, these short shows before the show became a sensation in their own right and featured cast members and special guests in light-hearted performances. One highlight were the three actors who’ve played King George III (Jonathan Groff, Andrew Rannells, and Brian d’Arcy James) lip-syncing “The Schuyler Sisters” from the show. Due to the overwhelming demand of tickets and the overcrowding around the theatre, the lottery is now web-based and Ham4Ham shows are far less frequent.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, Joe Shlabotnik

13. A Wrinkle in Time

In much of the 2018 Disney film A Wrinkle in Time, the character Mrs. Who speaks in wise quotes attributed to famous figures. The quotes range from the Buddha to Rumi to Shakespeare. Her last quote in the film “Tomorrow, there’ll be more of us” is attributed to Miranda, as in the creator of Hamilton. John Laurens utters the line in the musical right before his death.

Hamilton Musical FactsA Wrinkle in Time(2018),Walt Disney Pictures


14. The Rise of Hamilton

Hamilton was referenced in the series premiere of the 2018 NBC show Rise. The episode features characters singing along to “Alexander Hamilton” and is even quoted by the main character in the show, who is the newly installed high school theatre director. One of the producers of Rise, Jeffrey Seller, was also a producer on Hamilton.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

15. A “Mesmerizing” Reference

Of all the references to contemporary rap in Hamilton, the clever nod to early 2000s star Ja Rule in “Helpless” stands out the most. The song mimics the rap/R&B duets that Ja Rule collaborated on with Ashanti and Jennifer Lopez. As heard on the original cast recording, the last couple of lines on Hamilton’s rap verse even takes on Ja Rule’s trademark scruffy and growling cadence. Fittingly, Ja Rule and Ashanti would cover “Helpless” for the Hamilton Mixtape.

Hamilton Musical FactsShutterstock

16. Parody of Parodies

There is perhaps no greater accomplishment in American pop music than a parody from the legendary Weird Al Yankovic. Hamilton was awarded this honor in 2018, when Weird Al dropped his polka medley of various songs from the show. The medley was part of the Hamildrop series consisting of songs inspired by the musical. Other artists to be featured in the series include The Decemberists, Nas, and Ben Platt.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikimedia Commons, Rob DiCaterino


17. A Very Successful Soundtrack

Much to the delight of all those unable to get a ticket to the show, the original Broadway cast album was released in the fall of 2015. The album was produced by the Philadelphia rap group The Roots and would go on to be the first-ever cast album to top Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart. It would also be 2016’s fifth highest selling album and was certified as triple platinum in 2017.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, Dunk

18. Back to the Original Mixtape Plans

The Hamilton Mixtape was released in late 2016 and features covers of songs from the musical recorded by many popular artists. Artists featured on the album include: Alicia Keys, Usher, Kelly Clarkson, and Chance the Rapper. The cover album would be a success on its own right as it topped the Billboard albums charts—a feat that even the original cast album wasn’t able to do.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures


19. The Wildest and Most Awkward Hamilton Reference Yet

Miranda had an extended supporting role, playing “himself.” in the ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Throughout his run on the show, Miranda and the show’s star Larry David butt heads in a series of awkward interactions. In the season’s penultimate episode, after taking medication to alleviate the lingering pain from an impromptu wrestling match with Miranda, David embarrassingly falls asleep on the shoulder of Miranda’s “wife”—played by America Ferrera—during a performance of Hamilton. This would inevitably lead to a Burr-Hamilton-esque duel in the season finale between Miranda and David at a paintball range.

Hamilton Musical FactsCurb Your Enthusiasm(2000),Home Box Office

20. Hamilton Hitting the Road

There are currently two US touring productions of Hamilton. The first touring production hit the stage in San Francisco in early 2017 before moving to Los Angeles later in the year. The second touring production kicked off its run in Seattle in early 2018. Later in 2018, these productions will also be visiting Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, DC.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, Ken Lund

21. A Homecoming Performance

As stated in the show’s opening number, Alexander Hamilton was born in “a forgotten spot in the Caribbean,” specifically, the island of Nevis. Hamilton the musical will be making its debut in the Caribbean in nearby Puerto Rico in early 2019. Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, will be reprising his title role in that run of performances. The show aims to help the island territory recover from its recent economic hardships, which was heavily exacerbated by 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

22. The First Hamilton

Miranda’s Hamilton wasn’t the first time a production based on Alexander Hamilton was staged on Broadway. In 1917, a play also entitled Hamilton hit the Great White Way and with the role played by George Arliss, who also co-wrote the play with Mary Hamlin. A film adaptation of the play, entitled Alexander Hamilton, was released in 1931 and once again featured Arliss.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures


23. Inspiring a Younger Generation of Theatre Lovers

In early 2016, Miranda helped launch the #EduHam program, which made heavily discounted tickets available to high school students from low-income families. These students are not only given the chance to attend an interactive matinee performance of the musical, but they also participate in a month-long in-class component consisting of creatively engaging with history. Students are invited to share their creative projects before the matinee performances. The #EduHam program which started in New York City, through support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gilder Lehrman Institute, will be travelling across the United States alongside the touring productions.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

24. Laying Down Your Arms

The 70th Tony Awards, where Hamilton was nominated for a record 16 awards, took place less than 24 hours after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. In light of the tragedy, the live performance from Hamilton during the award ceremony was staged without the prop muskets that are usually part of the show.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

25. Working Through Your Honeymoon

Honeymoons should be relaxing affairs for most people. But for Miranda, he spent part of his 2010 honeymoon with his wife Vanessa working on the musical that made him a star. Despite not having access to a piano, he was able to write King George’s signature “You’ll be Back” on what should have been a restful vacation.

Hamilton Musical FactsShutterstock

26. The “Hamiltome”

The musical was the subject of the book Hamilton: The Revolution, released in early 2016. The nearly 300-page book, dubbed the “Hamiltome” by its fans, contains the lyrics of the musical’s numbers with annotations from Miranda himself, various essays by theatre critic Jeremy McCarter on the show’s development and early run, and rare behind the scenes photographs.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

27. A Poignant Opening Night Party

The after party for Hamilton’s Broadway opening night was held at the Chelsea Piers on the West Side of Manhattan. At one point during the party, the attendees were asked to congregate on the edge of Pier 60 facing the Hudson River. They were notified that it was not too far from this very spot that Alexander Hamilton sailed from Manhattan across the river to Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804 for the duel with Aaron Burr that ultimately took his life.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

28. Hamilton on The Small Screen

The musical was the subject of Hamilton’s America, a documentary for PBS’ Great Performances series. The documentary traces the process of staging the show and follows original cast members like Miranda, Christopher Jackson, and Leslie Odom Jr. as they acquire knowledge about the real-life historical figures they portray. The historical importance of the musical and its timeless concerns are also addressed through interviews with Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikimedia Commons

29. Box Office Glory

Hamilton has been a major box office draw. Its entire off-Broadway run at the Public Theater was sold out. It sold over $30 million in advance tickets sales prior to its Broadway opening. As of March 2018, its Broadway run has grossed over $330 million.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

30. Disrupting Plans

In 2015, the US Treasury had announced plans to replace Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill with a noteworthy American woman. However, due to the overwhelming success of the musical and the resulting revitalized interest in Hamilton, the Treasury decided to change the $20 bill instead. Hamilton will remain on the $10 bill, while abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the 20.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikipedia

31. Pirating Penzance

Many theater aficionados have noted similarities between the rapping found on Hamilton and the pitter patter rhythms of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirate of Penzance. Miranda makes reference to that show’s most famous number “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” in his song “Right Hand Man.” “Right Hand Man” features the lines rapped by the George Washington character: “Now I’m the model of a modern major general/The venerated Virginia veteran whose men are all/Lining up, to put me on a pedestal.” The “men are all” is a reference to use of “mineral” by Gilbert and Sullivan, which Miranda feels “wasn’t the best possible rhyme.”

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

32. Writing Close to Home

Miranda wrote some portions of his musical in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in th neighborhood of Manhattan. The mansion was used as a battle headquarters by George Washington, who is featured prominently in Hamilton, during the Revolutionary War. The mansion is just south of the Inwood neighborhood where Miranda grew up and is north of the Richard Rodgers Theater in Midtown Manhattan.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr,Dock Drumming

33. The Historical Emo Musical That Predates Hamilton

Hamilton wasn’t the first Broadway musical about an important American historical figure using a contemporary musical genre. Five years before Hamilton’s Broadway debut in 2010, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson premiered. The musical creatively traces the life of the United States’ seventh President featuring music inspired by emo rock.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, George_Jimenez85

34. Arcs v. Straight Lines

Much of Hamilton centers on the dueling-personalities of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. One way the musical achieves this is through its choreography. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler has Burr walk in straight lines and Hamilton move in arcs. This distinction symbolizes the pragmatist tendencies of Burr and the more ambitious leanings of Hamilton.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

35. A Nod to the Brits

The King George solo song “You’ll Be Back” is a noticeable departure from the other songs in the musical. Whereas most of the songs are influenced by American R&B and rap, the quasi-breakup ballad sung by a British monarch fittingly borrows musical cues from British acts like The Beatles. Musical director for the show Alex Lacmoire revealed in an interview with Vulture that “You’ll Be Back” incorporates elements from Beatles songs like “Penny Lane,” “Mr. Kite,” and “All You Need is Love.”

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, greyloch

36. Another Revolutionary Musical

Before Hamilton, there was another successful musical about the Founding Fathers of the United States—1776. The musical by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone premiered on Broadway in 1969. The musical specifically focuses on the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

37. One Song Per Year

It apparently takes a long time to get started on writing a musical. It took Miranda nearly a year from when he first started work on Hamilton to his 2009 performance at the White House to craft “Alexander Hamilton.” It took another whole year of work to write the musical’s second number “My Shot.” Miranda explained the reason for the lengthy timeframe, because “Every couplet needed to be the best couplet I ever wrote.” Luckily for us, Miranda didn’t take as long for the other songs.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikimedia Commons

38. Being Productive on Public Transit

On the subway ride to a friend’s birthday party, a lyric for the song “Wait For It” popped into Miranda’s head. He quickly grabbed his iPhone and recorded the line. On the subway ride back home from the party, he completed the rest of the song.

Hamilton Musical FactsWikimedia Commons

39. Not Included in Cast Recording

The original Broadway cast album of Hamilton is missing one song. As Miranda explained on a Tumblr post, “Tomorrow There’ll Be More of Us” doesn’t appear on the album for two reasons. Firstly, Miranda considers the song to be more of a scene. Secondly and more importantly, he felt it was important to withhold this emotional portion of the musical, which features the death of John Laurens, from the album, in order for it to be a revelatory experience once fans experienced it on the stage for the first time.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

40. The Importance of Airport Bookstores

Hamilton is largely inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda had picked up the book on a whim at the airport en route to a vacation with his future wife in Mexico. The vacation was Miranda’s first since the opening of his debut Broadway musical In the Heights.

Hamilton Musical FactsFlickr, Nathan Hughes Hamilton

41. Research Consultant

Ron Chernow—the author of the book that inspired the musical—has served as the historical consultant for Hamilton. Although the musical does take some artistic liberty, one of Chernow’s main roles was to work with Miranda in ensuring the spirit of Hamilton was captured in the musical, particularly his driven and determined nature.

Hamilton Musical FactsShutterstock

42. Concept Album Origin

Miranda originally envisioned his work on Hamilton as a concept album rather than a musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita were released as albums before they hit the stage. Miranda dream cast his concept album by assigning some of his favorite hip-hop acts to the appropriate historical figure. Miranda saw George Washington as a mash-up between Common and John Legend, Hercules Mulligan as rapper Busta Rhymes, and Hamilton himself as a cross between some of his personal favorite rhymers Rakim, Big Pun, and Eminem.

Hamilton Musical FactsHamilton (2020 film), Walt Disney Pictures

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37

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