Here at Read Fast, Eat Slow, we heard about the hit musical, Hamilton, the summer it opened. We scored tickets when the show was sold out only months ahead, not years like it is now.
And we were blown away.
Now I have finished Ron Chernow’s mega-book Alexander Hamilton. This is the book the musical’s creator picked up in the airport one day and — boom! — inspiration struck.
How, oh how, does one draw just the right story for a rap opera out of a book about a policy wonk? Out of a master class on bank policy and constitution-creation? Yes, there’s drama here — disloyalties, power grabs, retributions and despair at what your political enemies may do to the country. (Gee, not much has changed.) But with so much to choose from, how did the playwright hone in on the very details that would spellbind a theatre crowd for two hours?
If Hamilton had written his show, it would have been a TV series, four hours per episode, with a 40-year run. Every time Hamilton had a bright idea, he dashed off a 28-part pamphlet series and sent it off to the newspapers of the day. And the man had a lot of ideas. His “hyperactive mind” dwelt on how to build a country and how to raise enough money to run it. He could see the kinks in his own plans and come up with yet more ideas to iron them out.
He was also a control freak. From planting his friends in his enemies’ cabinet, to drawing up plans for military academies, complete with instructions on the uniform decorations as well as the proper marching tempos, the man could have been another Napoleon. Even in death, he left behind enough nails to puncture the tires of his assassin’s political career.
Chernow and Miranda both make much of Hamilton’s beginnings. Born on a Caribbean island to unmarried parents, he never lost the sore spot one gets from such a grubby start. But his gifts carried him far away from those sugar plantations, and right into the chambers where gentleman made history.
Photo credit: Gamma Man via VisualHunt.com / CC BY