Everyone is talking about Hamilton, but what even is it?
A recent conversation with a friend of mine reminded me that outside of the intense Hamilton fandom that is primarily focused on Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Twitter and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tumblr, a lot of people aren’t really sure what Hamilton is all about.
Friend: Okay, what is this Hamilton thing? And do I need to listen to it, because I find when I listen to musical soundtracks without seeing the show I can’t really appreciate it because I don’t know the characters and it’s all a bit cheesy.
Me: I accept this challenge. I will explain the show to you and you will love it.
Friend: Oh no, I wasn’t really asking for you to convince me or anything, I was just sharing how I felt in general–
Me: JUST YOU WAIT.
When you ask someone about Hamilton, they’re going to want to tell you about the importance of the diversity of casting; how it’s a masterpiece of historical analysis while also a pointed commentary on modern society; how it catapults women to the forefront; and how it innovatively uses musical styles to serve the story in a completely unique way. (Oh look — I did just tell you about all those things!)
But to get started, all you really need to know is: Who are these people and what are they singing about? Well, I’ve got you covered, because I already bombarded my friend with these descriptions so this article really involved no extra work (WERK!) on my part. Hey, we’ve all got bills to pay. I present to you the crash course to the characters of Hamilton the musical, minus expletives and excessive CAPSLOCK. You’re welcome.
‘Hamilton’: Act I
Note: These descriptions are accurate to the characters of Hamilton, not to the real life historical figures. You’ll need to do some further reading on your own if you’re interested in what’s real and not real.
Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Alexander Hamilton is this super sassy little dude who came up from nothing and would definitely kick your ass at NaNoWriMo because he writes like he’s running out of time. He is going to make something of himself if it kills him, and he challenges people to duels almost on the daily because he just can’t keep his mouth shut and that’s the 1700s version of, “You want to fight, bro?” He is the most easily offended dude you will ever meet, and if he was alive today he would spend all his time arguing with trolls on Twitter and then complaining about how they take up all of his time.
He’s approximately 1000% sure he’s smarter than everyone else but don’t hold that against him because he probably is. Also to make things better/worse, he’s a total ladies man. He’s also got kind of this emo streak, what with him talking about death every five minutes. It’s probably because of all those times he almost died. You’ll get used to it.
Sick of France and their total lack of a war, Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) came over to America to basically mess things up and get in fights. But P.S., it turns out he’s actually a military and strategic genius, so good thing he’s on Hamilton’s side. Lafayette and Hamilton are bros because they’re both immigrants and immigrants know how to get things done. He wants revolution everywhere, so once he’s done here he’s heading back home to stir up more trouble.
Next up is Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan). He’s learning to be a tailor but he doesn’t want to sew pants forever, so just like Hamilton he is praying for a war so he can prove himself and rise through the ranks. He is a guy you want on your side in a fight. And don’t worry, he definitely doesn’t have sex with horses, no matter what he says. Also he might be a super secret James Bond spy, but no spoilers.
Rounding out the awesome foursome of Act I is Hamilton’s BFF John Laurens (Anthony Ramos). Depending on which history books you read, Laurens was Hamilton’s secret lover (yeah, this gets steamy). They don’t reference the relationship in Hamilton, but Laurens calls Hamilton the “closest friend he’s got” and basically offers to die for him, so read into that what you like. Laurens is more anti-slavery than anyone in this show and considering the show is about the famous abolitionist Alexander Hamilton, that’s saying something.
These four are the Hamilton Act I dreamteam. They spend a lot of time making you wish you were in their squad and getting drunk.
Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.)
On the other side is Aaron Burr, the narrator of Hamilton and Hamilton’s ultimate frenemy. He’s like, “Talk less, smile more, just please shut up.” He’s the friend who waits until he sees what everyone else is wearing to the party before he picks an outfit because being overdressed is a big deal, okay?! He has no opinions and stands for nothing, except that he does but they’re a secret? Whatever, Burr. Basically, the ultimate modern politician.
Burr is way jealous of Hamilton because although they’re both orphans, Burr’s parents were loaded so he’s always worried he’s messing up their legacy. Meanwhile, Hamilton came from literally nothing so he can do what he wants because he literally has nowhere to go but up. Burr is also hooking up with the wife of a British officer but hey, no judgement.
George Washington (Christopher Jackson)
Presiding over all these beautiful idiots is none other than George Washington. He only raps when he’s mad or frustrated, so watch out when that drops. He’s trying to win the war, but Congress hasn’t given him any supplies, so he needs some help in the form of his new right hand man Alexander Hamilton. Alex isn’t super keen on being someone’s secretary, but Washington is basically his new dad so he agrees. Too bad Burr was also vying for that job.
Washington is constantly reminding Hamilton, you need to chill out man, I know you’re obsessed with your legacy but how about we focus on winning this war first before wondering which note you’re going to end up on (spoiler, it’s the $10). Also, you have no control WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY (this is the message of the show). Basically get your ass in line, Alex, or go home.
The Schuyler Sisters
While all these boys are fighting and drinking and generally being adorable miscreants, we can’t forget about the ladies. Hamilton is the ultimate ladies man, and the hottest girls in town are the Schuyler sisters, three daughters of this totally rich dude who are all super foxy and are basically Destiny’s Child.
First there’s Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry). She’s the Beyoncé of the three because she can rap better than you, she looks better than you, and she is smarter than you. It’s too bad she can’t fully participate in society because, reminder, this is the 1700s and she’s a woman, ew. She has a crush on Alex for a hot second and he is totally reciprocating because of her brain, and her body, and her money, and her status, but Angelica can’t go through with it and now she’s never gonna be satisfied.
That’s because her sister Eliza (Phillipa Soo) has already called dibs, and we know dibs were a serious form of currency in the pre-Revolutionary War period. Angelica loves her sister more than anything in this life even if she is the Kelly to her Beyoncé. Alex is more than down for this because for some reason he has no problem swapping between sisters and everyone else is totally cool with this. She and Alex get married and have a son, which is a pretty good incentive for him to not die during the final battle, and they’re all happy families.
And there’s Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones), but don’t worry about her, she’s the Michelle of the trio, who is really only there to fill out the harmonies. Poor Peggy.
King George (Jonathan Groff)
Finally we have King George. He just prances in every so often to laugh at the Americans and tell them how they’re messing up before threatening to murder them all. It’s really sweet. He’s like an awful boyfriend in a hilarious hat who is pretty sure you’re not going to find anyone better and so will come crawling back to him. Also he’s the only white guy in the main cast and that is super deliberate.
Listen to ‘Hamilton’ for free!
Now that you’re all caught up on the characters, you are ready to listen to Hamilton Act I, which finishes with the track “Non-Stop.” Prepare yourself to fall in love.
Chances are after listening to Act I you won’t be able to stop yourself from continuing with Act II, but if you would rather find out more about the new Hamilton Act II characters, keep reading on page two. Be aware, there are more spoilers for the show in these descriptions.
Keep reading on page 2: Who are the ‘Hamilton’ Act II characters?
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