Is Hamilton throwing away its shot to reach the very people who influenced its music?
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am absolutely obsessed with the soundtrack for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Rarely do I have an entire soundtrack to a musical easily accessible in my iTunes library, but when I started listening to Hamilton, I knew that my feelings would soon change.
When I first heard about Hamilton, I didn’t believe the hype. I thought, “okay, great, they put a bunch of minorities on a stage to watch us sing and dance, what’s new?” I was unphased by the history this musical was making. It took my Theatre Histories I teacher assigning the Hamilton soundtrack as homework for me to fall head over heels in love with the musical and storyline. I was enthralled by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyricism and poignant storytelling through the score. The music is historically accurate yet refreshing and relatable.
Hamilton is a masterpiece.
But every masterpiece has its flaws. And Hamilton’s is accessibility.
The ticket prices for Hamilton are ridiculous. And every time I get an email from their website saying that there’s another block of tickets available, I get a bit excited and head to the website, only to be disappointed by the fact that these tickets are $400 or more. At this point, I’m just plain infuriated.
The main attraction of Hamilton, the reason it is so successful, is because the primary characters are played by black and Latinx actors and actresses who rap, and this changed the game of what a Broadway musical can be. So, yet again, America’s fixation on black and brown bodies and our culture is put on yet another stage to be looked at and admired by those who can afford it. And yet again, the very people who are part of the culture that Hamilton is built on, for the most part, aren’t able to see it and reap the benefits.
People will want to say that Hamilton is great because it’s showing black and Latinx kids, teenagers, and young adults that they too can be represented on a major stage. I pose the question: how? How is this possible when the very people Hamilton is supposed to be inspiring, for the most part, cannot afford to see the show even if they saved up for five months?
And let’s just take the race element out of it for a second. The only people able to see Hamilton are the wealthy and the lucky few who win the Hamilton lottery everyday. Incase everyone forgot, rap and hip-hop are the musical genres for the disenfranchised and the so-called bottom of the 99%. This is what Hamilton has gained its success for, yet the 99% has no chance of ever witnessing it until two to three years from now. Even if you’re not poor or struggling for money, $400 for just ONE Broadway ticket is a lot to pay.
I fear that Hamilton has taken a genre of music that wasn’t meant for the 1%, and it’s morphed into a breath-taking soundtrack they can understand and digest, yet it has locked out the very people the genre was made by and for . If ticket prices let us know anything, we know that Hamilton is not for the not-wealthy. It is not for the little black and Latinx children who want to be performers. It is not for those who don’t have the means to enjoy a show they can relate to. It is yet another example of America commodifying a culture and then blocking the very people of that culture out of it. And this isn’t Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fault – he wrote an amazing score, fantastic lyrics, and a comprehensive script that he maybe thought would resonate with those of immigrant backgrounds, those who America treats as lesser, those who America usually forgets. That’s what I get from Hamilton when I listen to the soundtrack, but those ideals sung about in the musical sadly do not transfer over in the real world.
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Copyright 2017 Ahtiya Liles