One of the year’s most unlikely success stories is that of a Broadway musical about one of the Founding Fathers, in rap.
Hamilton: An American Musical hit Broadway in August following its Off-Broadway success. So hot are tickets that it’s even getting coverage in the UK, where it has yet to be staged, The Telegraph reports,
“It’s being billed as a game-changer in Broadway history, the first musical since Rent to bring the kind of popular music people are actually listening to in clubs, on the radio, at home, to the Broadway stage.”
The show album is also breaking records. Playbill reports that it has gone “where no other Broadway score has gone before: #1 on the Billboard chart of rap albums.” This month, it was announced as one of the nominees for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
As Hamilton the man is getting more attention, so is Ron Chernow, the historian and biographer who wrote the National Book Award winning Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004), which is central to the show’s creation. Rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway musical In the Heights, read it on vacation and instantly saw its potential as a musical. It was a six-year trip to realization with Chernow serving as the show’s historical adviser.
The Wall Street Journal features the author in a Christmas Day article on the show and its effect on the his celebrity. Says Chernow, “I never dreamed that I would be autographing Playbills … [this year has been] a biographer’s wish-fulfillment fantasy” adding, “With any piece of writing, you’re hoping that it will change something, and it seldom does. Between the book and the show, we really changed the perception of Alexander Hamilton.”
As part of a Time special edition, Alexander Hamilton: A Founding Father’s Visionary Genius—and His Tragic Fate, Chernow explains that Hamilton’s reputation is seeing a revival partly because,
“America has grown into the contours of the country of [Hamilton’s] imagination … We have caught up to his prophetic vision.”
Readers are also catching up. Chernow’s biography of Hamilton has been on the NYT Paperback Nonfiction list for the last six weeks, reaching a high of #2 and holds are growing in many libraries we checked.
While not actually a tie-in, the trade paperback edition now features the logo from the show on the cover.
The Wall Street Journal posted a video with clips from the show.
Before it moved to Broadway, CBS Sunday Morning featured a story on Hamilton, Chernow, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
More is coming, including road show versions, a likely Tony Award, and a book about the musical.
“The book will be designed to look like an object from Hamilton’s era and will include photos and artifacts in addition to interviews, essays and sidebars to accompany the central narrative of Hamilton’s life story and how and why Miranda crafted that life into the stunning stage work over the course of six years.”
Chernow told The Wall Street Journal he is currently working on a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which the paper says, he is writing “faster than usual, energized by the impact of 2015.”