The Gershons saw Hamilton and The Lion (February 2015).
Two new musicals. Each one has only one author. Each musical also has, as its star, the author!
Hamilton is written by the same man who portrays Alexander Hamilton on stage in his musical. There are other famous characters like the Founding Fathers of our country. This story has been told and retold. However, the way it is told by Lin-Manual Miranda is original. Although based on a fine book, it was also independently researched by Mr. Miranda meticulously. It is bombastically exciting, dynamic and will be a big Broadway show.
Hamilton is "new" in the way Rent, West Side Story, Company and Oklahoma were "new." It does not lose the tradition of musical theatre. There are sets, movement, music, design and contemporary lighting. Refreshing and engaging, the audience is immersed in the birth of our nation -- and we feel we are there. In a radical departure from tradition, Lin-Manuel elected to use "2015 Shakespearean iambic pentameter" of hip/hop/rap/Urban dialogue/music - the language of today; the music of today. This is what young people are listening to. Because of that, they will go see this show and get it, learn to love musical theatre and learn American history.
In the '50s, the big hits on the radio were the songs that came from musical theatre. That's what drove the heyday of musical theatre. That stopped long ago... until now. Hamilton is a sea change and will reach a broader audience.
Hamilton and The Lion are original.
Being original ain't easy as it requires intuitive gut strength and the courage to fail. One must dig deep and expose oneself to strangers in public. This can (when it works) change our perceptions and insinuate itself into our lives... or you can fall on your face.
Although these two shows are different (one large, one small), they are both inventive, fresh, riveting and original.
No one in an audience who goes to the theatre knows the DNA of how a show came to be. When you sit down in your seat, you are either transported or not. That's all that matters.
There is no science to write a show; no navigational equipment provided to authors except to hold onto the rudder of their passion and vision and steer their ship. The Lion and Hamilton succeed because the audience is swept into new worlds through the talent and alchemy of trial and error, experimentation, hard work and good instincts.
Mr. Sondheim wrote: "You either got it or you ain't."
Lin-Manuel Miranda, author/star of Hamilton "got it."
Ben Scheuer, author/star of The Lion, "got it."
I am not the Yoda to declare who's "got it." My credentials are truth, honesty, sincerity, and love for musical theatre. I like the role of being a shepherd. Secretly, I live their lives vicariously. I can't do what they do and want them to succeed. Creators need nurturing, compassion, feedback and resuscitating when they are down. Authors need people to level with them, but honesty is subjective. Honesty is also painful to deliver (it is easier to be vague and evasive), but that's not really honest or very helpful.
So my credentials are sincerity and integrity.
Ben Scheuer wrote the book, music, lyric and performs The Lion. Ben is the only performer on the stage. There is no choreography, no traditional staging, sets, elaborate costumes or other elements we associate with theatre. The Lion is small and spartan. Ben sits on a chair, playing guitars and singing his original music. The book is not based on a published book, a movie or historical characters.
But, in 70 minutes, Benjamin Scheuer sings us the 32 years of his life. Therein lies the magic of this show. The magic of The Lion is that it is real, intimate and wonderfully moving with simplicity and without traditional theatricality.
Ben wrote the story he knows and he wrote it well. He wrote with artistry and performs with virtuosity and with charisma. You, as an audience member, know in your gut that everything you are hearing and watching is authentic. You become entranced.
Both of these shows come from young, ballsy creators taking a chance.
How wonderful that new things are happening in the musical theatre; that young people have the courage to step out and risk falling on their face.
We are all better off as two original, non-derivative voices have emerged.
Congratulations to Messrs. Miranda and Scheuer.
You are both young, still growing and still maturing. I hope to be around long enough to see more of your works and know that the theatre will continue to grow and change with resourceful new talents who don't try to be anyone but themselves and are willing to get in front of audiences and take risks.
Thank you, gentlemen.
We were privileged being present and seeing you perform your respective works.
Folks, go see these shows...