NPR has a First Listen of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, the hip-hop Alexander Hamilton biography that's currently the hottest ticket in New York. Seats are hard to come by — for reasons financial, logistical, and geographic for many — so this is great news.
To be frank, America needs Hamilton in a way that it almost never needs a musical.
"How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean, by Provident impoverished, to squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?"
Hamilton is a reimagining of the most important events in United States history with almost no white faces in sight and using only art forms created by people of color. The stakes of politics are life and death in the early days of America, on a grand scale and on the personal — voting one way or another or "beefing" with an opponent could legitimately result in murder, and does. It recasts our Veep political landscape as self-aggrandizing and weak sauce.
Despite all this, Hamilton will make you feel better about America — its potential for change, the diversity of its voices, your mom's willingness to listen to what is actually a brilliant rap album because it's being performed on stage and can therefore hold her hostage long enough to rewrite her thinking about the genre. Ben Brantley, notorious grump in charge of The New York Times' theater reviews told his readership to "mortgage their houses and lease their children" to get tickets.
Stephen Sondheim worried that a musical based around rap would be too much — that the rhythm would become "monotonous" and "relentless." He worried that rap couldn't have a melody. As a pillar of contemporary Broadway, he was the voice of a status quo that couldn't understand the possibilities of rap and hip-hop until it was faced with them.
But Hamilton understands exactly what rap has been about for decades — bad odds and ambition, juxtaposition and the wealth of language, being "young, scrappy, and hungry," and unwilling to throw away a shot. Kendrick Lamar says "America, you bad bitch" in 2015 even as Lin-Manuel Miranda's Alexander Hamilton says "America, you great unfinished symphony," in 1804, in 2015.
Listen to it right now and then mortgage your house.