In Response | An Ode to Lin-Manuel Miranda
When Misti wrote her Ode to Hamilton a few weeks ago, I almost went into the comments section to write my own little Ode to Lin-Manuel Miranda. But I knew I’d write way too much for the comments section. So I’m writing this and hoping Misti will agree to post it on her site (She is ;-)).
Here’s my Hamilton background: a few months ago I saw all this Hamilton stuff popping up in Buzzfeed. And I thought it was ridiculous. I knew nothing about the play, just that Alexander Hamilton was the guy on money who was killed by Aaron Burr; but I couldn’t for the life of me remember if Burr was still VP when he killed him or if was after his VP term ended. Sixth grade was a while ago, sorry. Fast forward to Easter time, and backstage doing makeup at our church Easter pageant. One of my teen volunteers was going on and on about Hamilton. Her school musical last spring was In The Heights, so she and her group were all over this new musical. Unfortunately, it was at a time when I was super tired and her energy was not convincing me to listen to this music. Fast forward another two weeks and I’m in the car with my friend, Terri, and she’s playing this music that’s all about the American Revolution, but it’s hip-hop and rap and I was amazed. I heard three songs and had to ask her what we were listening to. She tells me her husband just bought this soundtrack to Hamilton and my response was, “well, now I have to get the soundtrack.” Because, DANG! A few songs and I was hooked.
So I got the soundtrack and was listening to it in the shower, and my son (G) heard it through the bathroom door and asked about it. Coincidentally, our little homeschool family is learning about American History this year and we were toward the end of our eight week study of the American Revolution. G asked if he could listen to the music also. So we started listening to it in the car. And my kids LOVED it. We heard “The Battle of Yorktown” right after learning about it in school. So they had just learned about the British soldiers singing “The World Turned Upside Down”, right before hearing it in Hamilton. They heard [George] Washington reference his past military mistakes and remembered learning about it when we studied the French and Indian War. All the things they learned in history they were now hearing about in amazing music. They were hooked.
All this background to get to this: Lin-Manuel Miranda has opened up a new world to my kids. They’ve seen movie musicals before. They’ve seen a few community theater productions of various musicals. They’ve been in our church Easter musical and also worked backstage at it. But with this musical, they’ve started seeing what I love about musical theater. How the music can get into your soul and change how you see things. That music can make you want to learn more about your world and history.
G started talking about “The Story of Tonight”, and how it reminded him of “Drink With Me” from Les Mis. He remembered that Les Mis is set after the French Revolution, which happened as a result of the success of the American Revolution. He questioned whether Lin-Manuel had included a drinking song in his show as a nod to the coming history and that Lafayette played a part in both. I was amazed that he was putting this much thought into Hamilton.
The next day G talked about King George’s songs and “Farmer Refuted”. He commented that “Farmer Refuted” is the first song that sounds like it would actually be in a musical about 1776. That the style is completely different than the music of the revolutionaries. He asked if Lin-Manuel made that decision to emphasize the difference in the mindset of the opposing sides. He pointed out that “Farmer Refuted” goes right into King George’s first song and the music ties in together, further showing the alignment of the pro-England colonists.
Lin-Manuel – you got my 15 year old son to have these conversations!
All three of my kids (I also have two daughters, A and C) talked extensively about “Say No to This”. We had a great conversation about temptation and cheating, and I told them my grandpa would always say, “No one wakes up in the morning and decides today is the day I cheat.” G actually argued that he thinks a lot of people plan to cheat, and I do agree with him. But we all had a great conversation about temptation and how to recognize it and what to do to protect yourself and the person you love from hurt and pain. By the way, G’s advice on how to say no? Say no, close your eyes, turn around, and walk away from the situation. Hopefully, if he’s ever in a temptation situation, he’ll be able to remember his own advice.
A had a lot to say about Maria Reynolds. A is 13 and all about girl power and how girl’s need to do better in supporting and encouraging each other. Her conversation and questions were all about how a woman could make the choice to get involved with a married man. What makes a woman decide to do that to another woman? I had to tell her that I don’t have an answer for that one. But I hope that she will continue to be all about the girl power. She loves the relationship of support between Angelica and Eliza. She doesn’t like that Angelica had feelings for her brother-in-law, but loves that for all her inappropriate feelings for Alexander, she totally calls him out on his behavior. She comes and supports Eliza when she needs her. (A is also super dying to see “Rewind” and find out how they do the staging. She has lots of ideas and wants to know if she’s right.)
G and C (my 11 year old daughter) have both come to me and asked about “Burn” and “It’s Quiet Uptown”. They both wanted to talk about Eliza, and how she was able to forgive Alexander for all that happened. They both commented on the strength of character for a person to work through that kind of pain. And the love that Eliza and Alexander must have had for each other.
All of us have had great conversations about friendship and pride. I love that this play shows how important friendship can be – it shows the strength of friendship and the willingness these men had to risk their lives for each other. And that led into the discussion of how sometimes they took that too far, and went into a discussion on pride. And how, ultimately, that was the downfall of both Hamilton and Burr. Their pride – their absolute determination and conviction that they were right and the other was wrong. It’s a great lesson for kids to learn. That conviction does need to be tempered and that being right can’t be the most important thing to you.
Lin-Manuel – you amazing man!
C is really the one of my three that has connected the most to this play. She’s learned the whole album already. She looked up the lyrics online when she couldn’t get Lafayette’s rap memorized. She walks around the house with her headphones listening to the album. I don’t even know how many times she has listened to it at this point. When we get in the car, she immediately says, “Hamilton?” She asked me to buy the companion book, which arrived Thursday, and she is tearing through it. She’s really loving the references to Harry Potter in the notes. She’s said for over a year that she wants to be a writer. Yesterday she started carrying around a journal and she’s now writing in it, because that’s what Lin-Manuel does. We started learning Shakespeare last month, and my kids have had to learn four passages from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. C learned two of them by rapping them. She’s not great at it right now – she needs to enunciate. But by the time she recited all four passages together, she had started to add pauses and emphasize different parts of the quotes. She’s also really appreciating pop-culture references. I can’t tell you how many times she has responded to a question or comment with a Hamilton reference. She and I had a conversation three nights ago about Angelica and Eliza and Hamilton and how Hamilton might have had a slightly different path if he had married Angelica instead of Hamilton. Her belief is that Angelica was better matched to Hamilton and would have challenged and helped him more, and that could have changed his trajectory.
Lin-Manuel – I love that my kids are now saying words like ruinous; the vocabulary in Hamilton makes me happy.
We’ve finished the American Revolution and we’re now learning about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. My kids are excited that they’re learning more about what Alexander Hamilton helped to create. We’ve read a few passages from The Federalist Papers, and they love hearing what Hamilton wrote.
So, Lin-Manuel – thank you for making this musical. Thank you for sharing your genius talent with the world. Thank you for making history exciting and fascinating. I can be a history nerd at times, and this musical has helped my kids get on the history nerd path. Thank you for telling the story of a man who, sadly, doesn’t get the credit he deserves in school textbooks. Thank you for being the kind of brilliant talent who realizes that he needs the help of others to bring his vision to fruition (so many people don’t want to admit they need help from others to fulfill their vision).
I’ve broken the sad and tragic news to my kids that we will not be seeing Hamilton. There’s five of us (my husband has finally listened to the whole album, and likes it, though he’s not a true devotee as we are). We simply can’t afford tickets, even when it comes to DC (we live in the suburbs of northern Virginia). But we can go to Yorktown and see where the war ended. We can go to Monticello and see Thomas Jefferson’s home. We’ve been to Mount Vernon many times already. We are lucky enough to live close to the history of the birth of our nation. So, we will keep looking to YouTube for video clips of the show.
(G is really hoping that it gets made into a movie at some point, so we can see some form of a performance of it.)
Editor’s Note: Want to get glimpse of Lin-Manuel performing Hamilton? Check out James Corden’s latest Tony Awards themed Carpool Karaoke.
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