“Hamilton” is Eliza’s Musical Review: Hamilton

Year: 2020
Runtime: 160 minutes
Director: Thomas Kail
Writer: Lin Manuel Miranda
Stars: Lin Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Anthony Ramos, Okieriete Onaodowan and Jonathan Groff

By Georgia De Souza

Like many Gen Z tweens these days, I have found myself spending hours on Tiktok, scrolling through the never-ending trail of comedy sketches, dance challenges and pranks. But after the long-awaited arrival of the musical “Hamilton” (and the challenge I was faced with – finding a friend [thank you Beth] to let me borrow their account for a trip the theatre), my Tiktok feed has been nothing but Hamilton related.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton (2020) © 2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve spent my night routine and into the early hours of the morning watching thirst videos, hidden meanings and rap battles regarding the musical – and I cannot say I am upset with this. From these Tiktoks I have been opened up to more than just the talent of Lin Manuel Miranda’s skills of creating the musical, but the astounding talent of every single cast member from Lafayette’s (Daveed Diggs) insane Guns and Ship rap to the importance of ensemble member Sydney Harcourt as he plays three seemingly minor ensemble roles.

But most importantly, it has put into question – it is really Alexander Hamilton’s musical?

Phillipa Soo in Hamilton (2020) © 2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“But in this single moment, my view for the musical completely changed.”

I have spent 5 years listening to the soundtrack, and unconsciously assumed the musical is named after, for and all directed to Alexander Hamilton (Lin Manuel Miranda); after all, the title of the first song is named ‘Alexander Hamilton.’ But I was stumped after I watched the filmed version for the first time to see the emotion Phillipa Soo put into her character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and the final moment as she stares back into the audience, gasping.

There have been many theories to this single moment, and as stated by Lin Manuel Miranda and director Thomas Kail each Eliza performed the ending differently – ‘it’s heart-stopping and traverses time in some way. Whether the thing she is seeing in Hamilton […] heaven […] or the world now.’ But in this single moment, my view for the musical completely changed.

“She continuously fought Alexander’s dreams, showcasing who the man really was.”

It would be naïve to believe that everything in the musical was factually correct, moments are exaggerated or moulded to fit into the cast size – for instance, it was in fact James Monroe who initially found out about Hamilton’s affair, not Jefferson, or that Angelica was married before meeting Hamilton. However, none of this information takes away the power of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and the image she presents of Alexander in the musical. Despite his affair which was also a catalyst for Philip’s (Anthony Ramos) death, she continuously fought Alexander’s dreams, showcasing who the man he really was.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton (2020) © 2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The musical starts with the lyrics ‘How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore […] Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?’ a motif which is frequently used throughout the musical; Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom) progressively getting more angry. The question posed by Burr instantly sets up the character of Hamilton to be heroic, however through the course of the musical I began to question this. Hamilton’s excessive sense of grandeur, thinking he was god’s gift ‘is it a question of if, Burr, or which one? as Burr dismisses Hamilton’s ability to marry a Schuyler sister instantly displays his cockiness. Despite this, the lengths of hard work Hamilton put into climbing the ranks, is undeniably impressive, especially as an immigrant ‘we get the job done.’

What was missed in the soundtrack, an important interaction between Hamilton and Eliza as they find out about the death of John Laurens (Anthony Ramos) a moment which I believe is the beginning of Hamilton’s tragic ending – his desire to push harder for those like John Laurens. The start of his neglect to his family, the start of the affair. The ending of Act One, the beginning of Act Two – what I believe to be the superior act, more emotion, more energy, more tragedy.

“She had the chance to pain him in a bad light, but she chose to create a positive history of Alexander Hamilton.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton (2020) © 2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

And it is through the ending of the musical film and the song ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story’ which encapsulates the idea, that the musical is in fact for Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. The sister of Angelica Schuyler outlived Alexander ‘another fifty years’ working to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton and his men. It is her determination to show the man she saw Hamilton as to be the face the world sees him as. She had the chance to paint him in a bad light, but she chose to create a positive history of Alexander Hamilton: his determination, drive and ambition which worked to make the musical of Hamilton such a success.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Phillipa Soo in Hamilton (2020) © 2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

And as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton stands gasping at the audience, she is reminded that her work to put positivity to Alexander Hamilton’s name has been successful. Therefore, I will once again pose the question for you to decide: is Hamilton the musical for Alexander Hamilton, or for Eliza Schuyler Hamilton?

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