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Constance Alexander: The ups and downs of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton make your heart scream


Days and nights on the Coronacoaster are filled with ups and downs. According to one definition, “One day you’re loving your bubble, doing workouts and baking sourdough; the next you’re crying, drinking wine for breakfast and missing people you don’t even like.”

In these turbulent times, the rules keep changing. Mask or no mask? To test or not to test? Social distancing: Fact or fiction? Just be glad you are not in Japan, which recently banned screaming on roller coasters because it spreads Coronavirus.

Instead, according to the Wall Street Journal, riders are advised, “Please scream inside your heart.”

So the other day, exhausted from screaming inside my heart, I watched the Disney movie of “Hamilton.” The blockbuster musical, inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, combines hip hop, R & B, pop, soul, and show tune styles with a racially diverse cast portraying historic figures who were white.

All over the world, audiences are snapping their fingers and wondering why history classes were so boring in school. “Hamilton,” in short, has turned the world upside-down.

Director of the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville, Brad Downall, was impressed with high production values and imagined what it would be like to see “Hamilton” in person. “My spine would have been tingling non-stop,” he said.

Patsy Crawford Carruthers, Program Manager of Instructional Technology at the University of Kentucky, was not sure she would like the music but ended up a total fan. “I loved how the actors inhabited their roles so fully. I can only imagine how electrifying it must have been to see it live.”

Murray State University professor and director Lissa Graham-Schneider said, “The production runs deep with imagery which is lost if you only listen. I love “The Bullet” character and how she intertwines death and Alexander Hamilton throughout the play. He repeatedly remarks he won’t “throw away his shot,” yet ironically does so in the end by aiming his gun to the air while dueling with an opponent who is a poor marksman; hence, losing his life in the same field as his son. Beautiful and sad.”

Murray photographer, former broadcaster and actor Terry Little traveled a different route to “Hamilton.” After he read Ron Chernow’s biography and his friends started playing the soundtrack of the musical, Terry pondered the possibilities. “Hmmm,” he mused. “A rap show.”

He missed the Playhouse in the Park “field trip” to Broadway to see the play but bought the CD after the Playhouse hosted a singalong version. Next came a live performance in Chicago, and then the Disney film.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

“The video version had a different type of impact,” Terry remarked. “You didn’t see the constant movement on the stage and really how they used the revolving area. Seeing it in the theater, where you can view the whole stage at once, shows what a fantastic job of choreography and direction sent into the show.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “the close-ups of the video showed the actors in a way that you can’t really see in the theater.”

Despite the profuse praise and passion “Hamilton” has inspired, haters carp about the difference between real history and the dramatic rendition.

On Reason.com, Nicholas Pell sneered, “I don’t think there’s a slight bit of hyperbole or exaggeration involved when I say that ‘Hamilton’ …represents everything that is wrong with America.”

Pell hated the music. “I thought it sounded a bit like a University of Iowa freshman – the kind who only listens to ‘real hip-hop’ – attempting his first mixtape.”

Further, he found it formulaic and cloying, with a “bourgeois quality.” “A cultural atrocity,” he fumed.

Pell also sniped at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “street cred” because the playwright is the son of a psychologist and attended the same elementary and high school as Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Adding insult to those perceived injuries, Pell grumbled about Miranda’s attendance at Wesylan University and the debut of the original version of “Hamilton” at Vassar College.

Like a roller coaster, opinions of “Hamilton” vary widely. If you need a break from the Coronocoaster, stop screaming inside your heart and take a look at “Hamilton.”

Just like a line in the musical, “You have no control over who lives, who dies, who tells your story,” but you can make up your own mind.

For more information, go to disneyplusoriginals.disney.com. The Nicholas Pell tirade is online at reason.com.


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