April 20, 2016

A glimpse behind the curtain of a Broadway phenomenon

By Jeremy McCarter & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Review by
This beautifully illustrated companion to Broadway's smash of the century will leave Hamilton fans completely satisfied.
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At the beginning of Hamilton: The Revolution, theater critic and co-author Jeremy McCarter describes the moment he first heard Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pitch for what was, at the time, a concept album about the life and times of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The book ends (spoiler alert for those of you who don’t read the news) with President Barack Obama addressing an audience at the end of a performance. If you’ve watched Hamilton’s rise from improbable idea to impossible hit, this progression will not be surprising. What’s great about Hamilton: The Revolution isn’t its destination. It’s the way it chronicles a distinctive creative journey.

Hamilton: The Revolution is, in itself, a beautiful object. Miranda himself christened it the “Hamiltome,” and it is the kind of gorgeous book you can proudly display in your living room. Musical theater is a combination of song, dance and story, and this book fittingly mirrors that with its combination of memoir, journalism and gorgeous still photography. Designers Paul Kepple and Max Vandenberg do a masterful job blending McCarter’s journalism and Miranda’s musical annotations with artful cast photographs by Josh Lehrer, who contributed images taken with one of the oldest camera lenses in existence.

With a pop culture phenomenon as big as Hamilton, it would be easy for the authors to give in to navel-gazing, and while the book does contain its fair share of creative reflection, Miranda—who just won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the play—never gives in to making it all about himself. He happily reminisces about the moments when particular songs were conceived (he dreamed up “Wait For It,” one of the show’s centerpieces, while on a train on his way to a birthday party) and reveals what was in his head during certain lyrical cornerstones, but it’s not about Miranda. It’s about the show. The book details with great love the contributions of everyone from director Thomas Kail and musical director Alex Lacamoire to Miranda’s co-stars like Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Schuyler Hamilton), and the list goes on.

The end result is a book that presents a full-throated celebration of the collaborative process. Hamilton: The Revolution provides insight into not only the logistical side of such an achievement, but also the emotional side. It’s no accident that this book is subtitled “The Revolution.” Sure, it’s an amusing American history pun, but it’s also a declaration of intent from Miranda and McCarter. They want to tell you the story of how something that’s changed musical theater also changed them. At its heart, the book is about how everyone who participated in this story was personally revolutionized, and that makes it something more than fascinating. It makes it moving. 

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Hamilton: The Revolution

Hamilton: The Revolution

By Jeremy McCarter & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Grand Central
ISBN 9781455539741

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