Hamilton Study Guide

Hamilton is an acclaimed musical that follows the life and exploits of an oft-overlooked Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Using innovative musical and theatrical methods, the musical takes the audience through the biography of the impassioned politician and invites the audience to contemplate the dramatic and momentous founding of the United States of America. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical integrates rap and hip-hop into a traditional musical theater score, and stages anachronistic renderings of historical events.

Upon its premiere, the musical was instantly praised for its ingenious integration of elements, its fresh take on some dry history, and its meticulously rendered and catchy score. Its impact was unique in that it became an almost instant and record-breaking sensation. Not only were audiences clamoring to see the stage show, but people all across the country bought the soundtrack and praised its vital, explosive lyricism. Ticket prices were and remain unprecedentedly high, as hoards of people clamored to see it onstage. Meanwhile, its debut on the hip-hop charts broke records, and its launch at number 12 on the Billboard 200 was the highest for a cast album since Camelot in 1961.

The concept for Hamilton first came to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda when he picked up a copy of the historical biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow at an airport. After finishing the first couple of chapters, he was already imagining Hamilton’s life as a musical. The first incarnation of the stage musical was a project called The Hamilton Mixtape. On May 12, 2009, he was invited to perform music from his hit Broadway show In the Heights at the White House. Instead, he performed the first song from the Mixtape, a rough version of what would become the song “Alexander Hamilton.” After that, he spent a year working on the song “My Shot.”

On July 27, 2013, Lin-Manuel performed in a workshop production of the show, which was still called The Hamilton Mixtape. The workshop consisted of the entire first act and three songs from the second act. The show began previews Off Broadway on January 20, 2015, officially premiering on February 17. The show later relocated to the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway, the same theater where In the Heights debuted in 2008. The Broadway production was met with universal acclaim, earning 16 Tony nominations and winning 11, including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. The original cast recording for Hamilton was released digitally on September 21, 2015. It debuted at number 12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the highest entrance for a cast recording since 1963. It went on to reach number 3 on the Billboard 200.

The musical was conceived, spearheaded, and led by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He endeavored to write the book and score, as well as star. The song "You'll be Back" sung by King George was written by Miranda during his honeymoon back in 2010. While Miranda had already achieved a great deal of success with his debut In the Heights, it was Hamilton that catapulted him to mainstream fame, and since then he has become a household name.