Experiencing Hamilton: An American Musical Through Headphones
by Iryna Byelyayeva
I had failed at listening to recordings of plays before and
no musical had ever kept my attention through the whole score.
Maybe it’s the genius rhymes, the huge dia-
monds of wit it rained down on my nigh-time tram ride.
Or the hip-hop roots, the songs are meaningful
they’re far from cute
and I hope some theatre kids I know will come to fully appreciate the flow of
ingenuity and history that seeps deep in the genre it’s playing with.
Man, thanks for showing me that it can be done –
that good theatre and proper pop-culture can become one.
It’s a curse and a blessing, like a flavour that will forever be messing with my taste palette
because now I feel like to go back to creating what we used to will fall flat.
I’m not saying everything we do now should include rapping (I’ve seen the Gilmore Girls revival),
that would be crapping on it,
what I’m saying is the story telling magic
mixed with the musical havoc we wreak on our emotions
has given our creativity a promotion.
Hamilton (2015) on stage would be amazing
the revolution in the story and the revolutionary cast
is a mast-
erful “fuck you look what we can do” to
all our seemingly segregated roles in entertainment,
a dirty residue Hollywood can’t shake.
And as much as I’d like to see it live,
experiencing just the music didn’t faze me.
I could follow along,
the singing was strong,
the story had a life of its own
in my head
my imagination felt well-fed
and all those tricky emotional responses which I can’t sunder
from the beat and the acting
I want this to become a new faction of entertainment.
Spoken word is hard to follow
but music is like chocolate milk – just try not swallow
the sweetness it provides
and the story it tells filling you right to the sides
of the your brain
I’m not the first to proclaim
Hamilton is a phenomenon
I could go on and on
but what I’m trying to say is
listening to a musical was almost more exciting
than seeing one live.
The all-singing musical is
easy to follow along,
the motifs of singing the characters’ names
the same way
in every refrain
was a clever way of
helping me not feel left out of the song.
It’s like reading a book
where I can imagine how all the characters look and
I don’t get distracted by the set or
things I think are going wrong,
there’s just me and the purity of the song
in a private moment all of our own.
I first listened to it on a tram, right
coming home late one night
on a route I know so well I want to
shoot myself each time I’m stuck on it
but with headphones in place
I probably looked ridiculous since I couldn’t control
contorted with every emotion I felt
for all the characters, their losses, their victories, their sacrifice and
it’s dangerous, when dealing with history,
to ignore the fact that Miranda took creative licence
with the story
but we have Wikipedia for fact checking.
Right now there’s no time because all I wanted
at 2 in the morning was to check in
with the characters I had left for a couple of hours
that’s Miranda’s power –
taking characters which would otherwise seem unexceptional
and through music transforming them into something unstoppable.
I was engaged all the way through
(although I’m not going to lie to you
the Schuyler sisters’ two songs
one after the other
was the ether
of the piece).
It’s nice to feel inspired
like you finally got something you didn’t know you desired.
This really put the things I love most together –
exploring characters and what they mean in their own world:
Burr realising his slate will never be wiped clean.
Angelica resigning to the fact that she should not be Hamilton’s pearl
History seamlessly intertwined with contemporary vernacular
Miranda’s lyrics are very particular
in the way they engage and explain
that it’s all interconnected
all the genres he uses in the songs never feel affected
they tap into our universal language – music.
We live in Australia and for us
it’ll take till around 2018
to see Hamilton performed outside our computer screen
so for now we have the Original Cast Recording
which is just as, if not more, rewarding.
Iryna is a creative lady living in Melbourne, Australia. She is the Editor of The Wall and gets published here and there. She can be followed on twitter @irynabyel