The musical Hamilton created by Lin-Manuel Miranda has been a smash hit on Broadway since its premiere in 2015, audiences flocking to the show the world over. Hamilton is indeed such a phenomenon that it is sold out anywhere and everywhere. So why is Hamilton so insanely popular?
I believe it is due its great word of mouth from the theater-going public, its endless accolades from the critics, the many wins at the 2016 Tony Awards, and the overall desire for people to see a unique retelling of the story of one of America’s most famous founding fathers. In addition, a major reason Hamilton is a success is in the way the show promotes multiculturalism in its portrayal of the diversity in America, emphasizes interculturalism in how it depicts the story’s protagonist and antagonist, and celebrates transculturalism by infusing known characters with new ethnic groups to create an entirely original kind of production.
The concepts of multiculturalism, interculturalism, and transculturalism all play major roles in the context of the protagonist and antagonist of Hamilton — Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, respectively. The story of the musical concerns that of the rise and fall of Alexander Hamilton, starting at the beginning when he was born an orphan and struggled in his early life, raised with little money and without a father, and then showing the honorable and fiercely ambitious politician he turned into — aide to the great George Washington before becoming head of the Treasury Department. However, Hamilton also made a few enemies, the most dramatic being his foil named Aaron Burr, the Vice-President of the United States at the time who killed Hamilton in a duel after they endured a traumatic personal dispute.
The musical incorporates the ups and downs of Hamilton’s wild life, which also included a notorious sex scandal, by demonstrating the need for what is a universal immigrant story, one that helps incorporate the first of the three concepts, which is multiculturalism. The immigrant story doesn’t only refer to Hamilton, after all; it defies generations as well as ethnic groups. The musical promotes multiculturalism by telling a story of a white immigrant through the lens of a Puerto Rican artist, incorporating the kind of hip-hop lyrics typically written by people of color.
The musical emphasizes interculturalism by depicting the struggles and power arrangements through two opposing cultural figures — Hamilton and Burr. At the story’s end, they are at odds with one another, fearful and perturbed, to the point where they face off in a duel to the death. Going a step further, the production itself emphasizes interculturalism by often casting Hispanic actors as Hamilton and black actors as Burr, which similarly shows the conflicts that can arise between different ethnic groups.
Lastly, Hamilton celebrates transculturalism in that mixing various cultures is what the show is all about, the new form of art being created by featuring a diverse cast that portray real-life human figures who were of a different race more than three hundred years ago. The new form of art in Hamilton assures that audiences be swept away not only with the compelling story of Hamilton versus Burr, of protagonist versus antagonist, but also the opportunity to see what makes different races both at conflict with one another and at peace with what ultimately binds the human race together.