CULTURE & ARTS

Hip-Hop Gets Another Shot At Broadway Fame In 'Hamilton'

What's the secret behind the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's newest show?

Last year, the Tupac-inspired musical "Holler If Ya Hear Me" hit Broadway to tepid reviews and slow sales, forcing the production to close after less than two months. But fast-forwarding to 2015, it seems it's finally hip-hop's time to shine on the main stage.

"Hamilton," which headed to Broadway from the Public Theater in July, tells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton and is littered with references to hip-hop greats like Notorious B.I.G., Grandmaster Flash and Mobb Deep. Thus far, the Broadway production has garnered rave reviews, attracted notable patrons like the Obamas and seen phenomenal ticket sales. In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" has become the second-highest grossing show on Broadway, with more than $1.697 million in sales. 

So what's behind the show's success?

As New York Magazine theater critic Jesse Green told HuffPost Live, the show is a "game changer," that completely lived up to the hype. Where "Holler If Ya Hear Me" faltered, Miranda leaned on his knowledge of both musical theater and old school hip-hop to seamlessly marry the two, American Theatre senior editor Suzy Evans told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani.

"A lot of hip-hop musicals weren't crafted for the theatrical stage -- think of 'Holla If You Hear Me,' the Tupac Shakur-scored musical.  That was music from Tupac made into an official musical," she said. "With Hamilton, Lin grew up with '90s hip-hop and R&B and he grew up with musical theater, and he's basically taking his knowledge and his following … and he's bringing the two worlds together, as I feel like only he really can."

John Keene, the department chair of African-American studies at Rutgers University, praised Miranda for crafting a story that could have been both "dry" and "academic" and bringing it to life with its modern sound. 

"You're really getting this extraordinary history lesson in the form of hip-hop," he said. "And not just through a static version of hip-hop, but hip-hop that is drawing on this array of styles -- beatbox, chopper, freestyle. It's really quite remarkable."

He also lauded the show for its "nontraditional casting," which produced a refreshingly diverse cast. As Miranda told The New York Times earlier this year, that was no accident.

"Our cast looks like America looks now, and that’s certainly intentional," he said. "It’s a way of pulling you into the story and allowing you to leave whatever cultural baggage you have about the founding fathers at the door." 

Watch the full segment about Broadway's most talked-about musical "Hamilton" here

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