‘Hamilton’: The musical that turned the world upside down

After a three-year run, “Hamilton,” the Tony Award, Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical detailing the life of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton, has closed its curtains.

The contemporary yet deeply patriotic musical pushed the envelope and went against the norm of mainstream Broadway. From the music to the casting to the portrayal of American history, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” shocked audiences everywhere.

“When I saw it from the audience for the first time and had been working on it for the past three months, I was absolutely overwhelmed,” said Heather Boehm, a violinist, violist and DePaul adjunct professor who performed in the pit orchestra for the entire Chicago run of the show. Boehm got involved with the musical just like any other musician would. After a series of auditions, she soon got the call to play the viola and violin as a regular chair-holder for the pit.

“I had a feeling in the first couple minutes that this was going to blow me away,” she added. “And that’s such a wonderful feeling to have in the theater.”

When “Hamilton” first started playing in theaters across America, it was applauded for its composition that set itself apart from traditional Broadway musicals, but it was also criticized for its use of hip-hop, pop and sound effects in the score.

“I think it’s important to keep an open mind on the way the performing arts are changing,” said Grace Ryan, a music major in DePaul’s School of Music. “We’re not necessarily losing the beauty of classical orchestration, I think it’s just taking on a different perspective.”

The music was what made Hamilton unique, and the majority of audiences couldn’t get enough of it.

“We had moments with like ‘Room Where It Happens’ where we could feel the excitement of the audience and the groundswell of the applause,” Boehm said. “And, in the pit, you’re covered, so you’re not as connected to it because of the set design, but we could feel the audience sometimes in our feet. The roar would be so loud. It was absolute electricity.”

Miranda rewrote the narrative of Broadway by selecting a diverse cast to play the roles of the founding fathers. He delivered messages on inclusivity through his stylistic choices that audiences quickly picked up on.

Lily Boyle, a costume technology student in DePaul’s Theatre School strongly favors one line in particular in the musical: “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

“As a Chinese immigrant, as someone who is a person of color, we are still a part of America’s history just as much as the original figures were,” Boyle said. “So, Lin’s choice to have people of color in the cast was on purpose to show that America is diverse, and it is all of our story.”

Though some were unable to attend the show itself, with tickets costing up to $600 in Chicago, many fell in love with the soundtrack.

“[Lin-Manuel Miranda] is lifting people up,” said Madeline Schuster, a costume technology student in the theatre school. “He’s trying to give people of color a voice. He’s making us believe that maybe we should go out and vote. Maybe we should protest. Maybe we should write a letter to our congressmen. He is giving people hope.”

Even though the portrayal of history in the musical is not completely accurate,  “Hamilton” is still a retelling of American history that has encouraged audiences to be curious about their heritage.

Emile Blackstone, a freshman at DePaul, said that “Hamilton” provided her an outlook on “how many people gave up their lives” and “risked everything” for her to have her freedom. 

The show has also become an educational tool that has provoked a renewed interest in the American Revolution.

Emily Romeo, DePaul’s visiting assistant professor of history, said she loves when her students ask her questions about the accuracy of “Hamilton.”

“It gets us into conversations about the Revolution, debates about the Constitution, debates about what our government should look like, so it opens up larger conversations that we didn’t really have an easy way to get to as we do with ‘Hamilton,’” Romeo said.

The musical “Hamilton” shook up the Broadway scene, rattled critics and left audiences around the world in awe. The musical sparked a new flame in the hearts of many Americans, a flame that has turned the theatrical world upside down and has blown us all away.