Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hamilton's America: PBS Documentary

Set your DVRs for this Friday, 9pm/8pm on PBS to see Hamilton's America. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's enthusiasm and skill are the essential ingredients, the wonderful documentary "Hamilton's America" explains. The program charts how Miranda read Ron Chernow's "Alexander Hamilton," saw a hip-hop musical in the story and performed the opening number at the White House in 2009. Deadlines and collaborations helped Miranda deliver a musical that electrified New York theater last year, earned a record 16 Tony nominations and collected 11.The documentary shares thrilling numbers from a show that quickly became part of showbiz lore but very difficult to see. First lady Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon are effusive about how the musical moved them. (She gives the show the best review possible, saying it is "the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.")
The program enlists speakers including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, composer Stephen Sondheim, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Cast members discuss the show earnestly and travel to places where history unfolded. Director Thomas Kail says he wanted to remove black-and-white nostalgia to make the show vital and the characters relatable.
"These were real people who lived and died," says Miranda, who wrote the music, lyrics and book. "There’s no saints in this show — not a one."
Yet Miranda speaks with awe about "best-looking Founding Father" Hamilton. He was an illegitimate orphan and an ambitious immigrant who became George Washington’s right-hand man and created much of the federal government. The productive Hamilton makes you wonder what you're doing with your life, Miranda says.
Hamilton also could be arrogant, irritating and elitist. The musical reminds us that we are more than one thing, says Leslie Odom Jr. He won a Tony for playing Aaron Burr, who killed Hamilton in a duel.
Miranda says he didn't anticipate how much the show would help Hamilton's legacy. But the remarkable "Hamilton" has helped the country by offering hope in a dismal political year.

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