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While many American viewers spent Thursday night glued to their televisions for either the Republican primary debate or the final episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a slew of stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Sawyer, Charlie Rose, Busta Rhymes, Jason Bateman and Peter Dinklage gathered in New York City for a different political milestone: the Broadway opening of Hamilton, which chronicles the life of the “ten-dollar founding father” with predominantly non-white actors and a hip-hop musical score.
“It’s an old time-y Broadway musical dressed up in the music we grew up listening to and loving,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created and wrote the show and stars as Alexander Hamilton told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are just as many references to 1776 and Jason Robert Brown as there are to Biggie [Smalls] and Mobb Deep.”
The opening also drew Matthew Broderick, Jon Bon Jovi, Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Susan Sarandon, Judith Light, Rosie O’Donnell, Raven-Symone, Allison Williams, Jennifer Nettles, James Monroe Iglehart, Alex Sharp, Linda Lavin, Patina Miller, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Samira Wiley, Selenis Leyva and Danielle Brooks.
But will the rave reviews from critics and celebrities alike attract even the biggest theater skeptics to the stage world? “I hope it expands what people think is possible within the genre —The Roots are producing the album, and Common and Busta dug it and flipped out!” laughed Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Aaron Burr. “Broadway can be corny in the music industry, so I’m excited to bridge that gap.”
With the breakthrough musical already sold-out for months, the success of Hamilton could affect how Broadway sounds in the future. “Hip hop is such a big part of our culture, so the fact that they took a chance to pair it with this historical figure — and that it works — is exciting,” said Aaron Tveit. “Now, kids are gonna see Hamilton and grow up thinking, ‘This is possible. I can think outside the box.’ This next generation of people creating shows are gonna have this in mind.”
Plus, Hamilton is one of this season’s handful of productions that star minority actors as leads — including George Takei‘s Asian-American musical Allegiance and Gloria Estefan‘s Latino starrer On Your Feet! — but it differs from the other two for its colorblind casting of major roles like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Aaron Burr.
“It’s America of now telling the story of our forefathers,” said Jonathan Groff, the show’s only white actor in a major role. “I think it’s revolutionary.”
Attendees agreed, complimenting the cast all throughout the Chelsea Piers afterparty, which included a surprise hour-long set from The Roots and a massive fireworks display over the Hudson River.
“What’s wrong with picking the best person for the role? It’s all imagination — we’re not actually in rooms or on ships in Neverland and I can imagine that, but I can’t imagine a black man can play a white man?” asked Yvette Nicole Brown, who has tweeted often about the show since attending an off-Broadway performance at The Public. “The idea that there are all these brilliant kids coming out of drama schools, and there may not be a place for them here outside of the chorus, breaks my heart. That’s why we need more shows like Hamilton.”
Altogether, Miranda feels confident about a pending domino effect. “What it’s doing is, when you see a cast that’s all white, you go, ‘That looks weird,'” he explained. “But Encores! announced they’re doing 1776 next year. I emailed them and said, ‘I hope your founding fathers look like our founding fathers.’ They wrote me back: ‘They will.’ “
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