Hamilton: History Made New

Hamilton: History Made New


Marianne Riess is the former head of the Putnam Indian Field School in Greenwich, CT. She has 40 years of experience in working with young children.

Our annual vacation to Block Island this year had a new twist: my NYC grandsons (Axel, just shy of 10 and Owen, 8) were traveling with us. I wondered how to keep them amused during the 2½ hour car trip to the ferry. Knowing that they both loved music, I decided to purchase the CD of the Broadway show, Hamilton.

Imagine my amazement and delight when I popped in the CD and both boys instantly began singing the opening song. This number includes solo parts by the major characters Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Burr, Madison, and Lafayette, backed up by the whole ensemble. The boys knew and sang every word, including the soprano parts by Eliza Hamilton and her sister Angelica.

As the ride and the songs continued, we realized that Axel knew the entire first act by heart and Owen knew more than half of it. They had a great time singing along. Unbeknownst to me, they already had the musical downloaded on their iPad. Throughout our time in Block Island, we had only to put on the CD to elicit a burst of hip hop from the back seat.

Of course, we’ve all heard about Hamilton, famous for its impossible-to-get and incredibly expensive tickets. But it took the boys’ love of it to get me intrigued. Listening to the lyrics, I realize the content is historically accurate. It begins with the immigrant Alexander Hamilton arriving in New York City after an impoverished early life in the West Indies and follows him through the Revolutionary War, his work at the Constitutional Convention, as America’s first Treasury Secretary, and through his involvement and leadership in the many political issues of the young country.

So why would such history class material appeal to young boys? What’s behind its incredible popularity? In a stroke of creative genius, Lin Manuel Miranda took a story about the founding fathers and set it to a hip hop beat, giving a new and fresh approach to an old tale. The actors who play the founding fathers are as diverse as New York City is today. Beautiful melodies alternate with hip hop. The whole enterprise is a fresh and modern approach to the life of our “ten dollar founding father.” Alexander Hamilton becomes a hero to all generations of people who see this show. It is an educational experience brought to exuberant life.

Needless to say, after our weeks in Block Island, I am very familiar with the music and lyrics. The CD is a lot of fun and I also recommend the book about the show, Hamilton the Revolution. Both are available on Amazon. Everyone will enjoy it and learn a lot.

Now I would love to see the show… sometime in late 2017… or 2018? Who knows? Maybe by that time Axel or Owen will be in the cast!!

Axel's not throwing away his shot!

Axel’s not throwing away his shot!