Hi everyone! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the content I’ve been putting out these last few weeks.
Unfortunately, this next month is crazy busy for me with AP Exams and finals. So, I’ll be taking a hiatus from posting for the next month or so. But I’ll be back with a reaction to the Tony Awards! If you aren’t caught up, nominations came out today.
If you’re reading this I assume you have at least an inkling of knowledge about Hamilton and its massive popularity. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, the smart, innovative, Pulitzer Prize and 11 time Tony winning rap musical has garnered thousands of fans and celebrity visits (as well as launching a sit-down production in Chicago and a national tour in San Francisco) since it’s open in August 2015 – and become infamous for not being able to get a ticket to it.
Personally, I had my eye on Hamilton since it’s Off-Broadway run at The Public Theatre in early 2015. With a score by Tony-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda and coming out of a theatre with such a great track record, I knew I was going to have to learn more once it made its inevitable Broadway transfer. I stayed up until midnight to get the cast album when it came out in September later that year. After that first listen, I couldn’t stop talking about it to friends, begging them to listen so I could have someone to talk about it with. I tried to coerce many of my friends who I’ll describe as “non-theatre people” (for purposes of this post, I’ll define as “people who don’t typically like theatre”) into listening by explaining, “It’s all rap, I swear it’s not boring! You learn about this in APUSH!” to no avail. Fast forward a couple months later – it seems like everybody from classmates, celebrities, and people I’ve never seen get excited about theatre in general, owns a T-shirt with the words “Young, scrappy, and hungry.” printed on it and has captioned at least one Instagram post with a lyric from “Wait For It”. How come no one believed me when I said it was good the first time? More to the point of this post, just how did Hamilton explode in popularity so fast?
I’m not sure if anyone else is dying to know the answer to this like I am. And of course, there’s a ton of factors that contribute to Hamilton‘s success. There can’t be just one definitive answer, as we saw with Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Despite this, to aid in my quest of finding a plausible and believable answer at the very least, I created a Google Form that some of you might have taken to see if there’s any correlation between being a theatre fan and a Hamilton fan. The short answer to that is a definite yes. The long answer requires a bit more thought.
Let’s start here. As you can see, 37.3% of people responded “to an extent” when asked about being a theatre fan in general, but when asked about being a Hamilton fan, there was a significant drop, decreasing to 29.9%. Obviously, way more people enjoy theatre in general compared to enjoying Hamilton specifically – a result which was expected, since no one who likes theatre is bound to like everything. But with the people who answered “yes” and “to any extent” to being a Hamilton fan, that’s 76.2% of people who, at the very least, like the show.
When asked to explain their answer choice, those who said they are, or to an extent, a Hamilton fan, cited things like the shows innovative use of rap and the actual history behind it. This I can understand, as younger people who are my age and never really figured they would enjoy stereotypical musicals (as in, golden age musicals that are “long and boring”), but then are introduced to a musical that not only encapsulates a genre of music they find entertaining as well as subject matter that a lot of high schoolers and young adults have to learn about in school, their views change. What better way to study for your AP U.S. History exam than listening to a musical? From here, teens who are new to theatre can continue learning by getting into more contemporary and relatable musicals, like Dear Evan Hansen or The Book of Mormon.
All this can certainly apply to adults and older fans, too. By presenting musicals as something that’s genuinely entertaining, but are still serious enough to make one reflect on their life, it opens the door for new theatrical discoveries outside of Hamilton.
It’s not all in the numbers, though. I believe Hamilton’s popularity was definitely influenced by timing as well. By analyzing Google Search Trends, we can gain some insight.
As shown here, there are three main points in time where Hamilton peaked in interest on the Internet. The first being February 14th to February 20th, 2016. In fact, the 58th Grammy Awards where Hamiltonperformed and won the award for Best Musical Theatre Album took place on the 15th. Due to this, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that that this mainstream exposure is what catapulted Hamilton to recognition outside the theatre community so quickly. The same can be said about the other two spikes on the chart. The highest peak, in the middle, is shown as June 12th to June 18th, 2016; the 70th Tony Awards where Hamilton performed took home 11 awards were held on the 12th. Again, being apart of a mainstream awards show helped to increase talk surrounding Hamilton. Finally, the last and most recent spike in Hamilton interest happened around November 20th to November 26th, 2016. This, as you might recall, was when then Vice President-Elect Mike Pence paid a visit to the show, being booed by audience members and receiving a message from the cast, to which he later responded to. The controversy hit the media hard, even more so when President-Elect Trump tweeted about the event multiple times, rightfully causing people to research the show. While not a surefire way to justify the popularity of Hamilton to theatre outsiders, I think it’s more than possible to believe that some fans were introduced to the show thanks to its moments outside of solely theatre-based news coverage.
Of course, this analysis was an accumulation of the data I collected (which has the possibility of being biased) and search trends, all of which can be interpreted in many different ways. Perhaps Hamilton was just a phase that only briefly raised interest in musicals. Or maybe it did introduce a whole new generation to an underappreciated art form. Whatever you think Hamilton‘s contribution was, there’s no denying it’s a show no one will be able to stop talking about for a long time.
What you do think about Hamilton and its popularity? Did it introduce you or anyone you know to musical theatre? Tell me in the comments!
Typically, a composer of a musical will leave the task of bringing their music to life to the talented actors and actresses who get cast in their show. But for a few composers, their role in a show goes off the sheet music and onto the stage.
It’s no secret that Pulitzer Prize-winner and worldwide celebrity Lin-Manuel Miranda is a man of many talents. So much so that he wrote and starred in not one, but two original works: In The Heights and Hamilton. Both performances earned him a Tony nomination in 2008 and 2016, respectively.
Well-known singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles made her composing debut last season with Waitress, based on the 2007 film of the same name. Tony-winner Jessie Mueller originated the role of Jenna, but on March 31st earlier this year, she replaced Mueller in the role and will be baking pies and belting out her own songs like the iconic “She Used to Be Mine” until July 11th.
Josh Groban made his Broadway in November 2016 as the “bewildered and awkward” Pierre Bezukhov in the innovative electro-pop musical Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, which is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace. But in its earlier Off-Broadway productions in 2012 and 2013, and the subsequent cast album that followed them, composer Dave Malloy and his accordion helped bring to life this complex and beloved character.
Who’s your favorite composer who starred in their own work? Do you have a composer you think should be in their own show? Let me know in the comments!
Firstly, I’d like to apologize for the lack of posts yesterday. I’m really busy sorting out other things I have to get done before I leave for vacation tomorrow. I didn’t want to post a lackluster post just to stay on schedule. Hope you all can understand. But in the meantime, check out Tuesday’s post on theatre etiquette!
Secondly, I’ve mentioned briefly in previous posts that there’ll be no posts this coming Tuesday and Friday due to my spring break. But I’ll be back starting April 4th with a post about the controversy surrounding Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and why it failed, then on April 7th with a analysis post on why so many non-theatre fans like Hamilton. That’s actually what I’ll be using the data from my Google survey for! You can still take it until then if you haven’t already.
I’ll try to update you all on the Project Theatricality Twitter, but if not, have a safe and great week! See you in April!
Hi everyone! As the title says, I need some help! I’m currently working on a post that’ll most likely be coming out in two weeks after my spring break – I won’t be posting during that week – and I need to collect some data for it. So I made a Google Form! It’s pretty straightforward (I hope) and shouldn’t take too long. There are a few written questions, but don’t feel pressured to write a whole lot if you don’t want to. I wanna keep the subject of the post this data is for a bit under wraps right now, but I can promise you it’s gonna be great. Make your guesses on what it is in the comments! I’m really excited for it.
Well, that’s all I have. Again, here’s the Google Form link – after you’ve taken it, share it with your friends too! And if you haven’t already, check out Friday’s post on The Public Theatre and how it’s influenced Off-Broadway theatre over the years. Tons of your favorite shows started out there. Of course, I’ll be back on Tuesday with another post as always. It’s a review of the extraordinary “Come From Away” cast album – the show opens tomorrow at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre!
What do musicals like Hamilton, Fun Home, Hair, and A Chorus Line have in common? Nothing, right? Far from it, actually. They’re all considered to be among the greatest theatrical works of our time, and they all originated at The Public Theatre in New York.
Now known as the ultimate Off-Broadway hub for new, upcoming experimental works, The Public Theatre first opened in 1967, boasting the world-premiere of Hair, a rock musical known for its controversial themes rooted in the hippie counterculture of the 60s. After its run at The Public, Hair had a successful Broadway transfer and went on to be a cultural icon internationally as well as domestically; it was Tony and Grammy nominated in 1969. This allowed The Public to continue to grow as they cemented themselves to being committed to “embracing the complexities of contemporary society and nurturing both artists and audiences” – as its founder Joseph Papp wanted.
The next production housed at The Public that proved to be as culturally impactful as Hair came in 1975 – A Chorus Line. The show popularized concept musicals as it explored the complexities of seventeen performers audition for a Broadway show. Similar to Hair, A Chorus Line transferred to Broadway not long after its run at The Public and soon exploded in popularity and was showered with many accolades. It became the fifth musical in history to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and spawned many international productions across three decades. Without the borrowed $1.6 million from The Public to produce the show, A Chorus Line would mostly certainly not be the quintessential musical we know it as today.
More recently, The Public has produced two back-to-back incredibly successful Tony winners: Fun Home and Hamilton. After The Public, both shows went on to became immediate successes. As mentioned in my Fun Home review, it broke ground in its representation of the LGBT community. In 2016, Hamilton became the ninth musical in history to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has become a nation wide success in a short amount of time.
It’s no secret that most impactful Broadway shows start Off-Broadway – just take a look at shows like Rent and Next to Normal – but history has shown that The Public Theatre is New York’s leader in bringing new, different, and innovative works to life. So if you happen to come across a show you think is the next huge sensation, chances are it came from The Public.
Have you been to The Public Theatre? What’s your favorite work that’s emerged from The Public? Let me know in the comments!
If you’ve taken a look at the musicals and plays of the past the few seasons and were surprised to find that you recognized a majority of them because you read the book version, it’s not just you. The 2015 and 2016 Best Musical Tony Award winners – Fun Home and Hamilton, respectively – were both adapted from previously written works. In fact, in recent years, Broadway has been dominated by book to show adaptations. American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, are just a few examples of this phenomenon from past seasons.
The rise of book-to-stage adaptations has resulted in an imbalance of adapted versus original works in modern theatre as of late. It’s arguably easier to improve on an already existing story and transfer it to a different medium rather than create your own. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing. Many adaptations like Wicked take the original source material and add new plot points to already existing ones, while other shows like Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are adaptations of a much longer text like War and Peace and make the story feel fresh by doing something unique and innovative in the staging.
Despite this, the dramatization of books is certainly not a new concept. The concept dates all the way back to beginning of theatre with the satyr plays of the Ancient Greeks, which were based on epic poems or myths. And while literary adaptations of today may not be based on myths or legends, there’s definitely a huge benefit when it comes to show based on works people are already familiar with: a built in audience. Introducing someone who’s never seen a theatre show in their life is hard, but if they become enticed through an adaptation of something they already have knowledge of, it becomes a little easier.
Although literary adaptations on stage may have a bit of a bad rap in 2017, we should give credit where credit is due. Stage adaptations of books can bring in new audiences and new innovations to theatre as a whole. So the next time you read a great book, don’t be surprised if you see it on stage sometime soon.
What are your favorite shows based on books? Is there a book you want to see a stage adaption of? Let me know in the comments!