"Hamilton" handles history, race and fame in its Tulsa debut


I can officially attest; "Hamilton" truly does live up to the hype.            

Upon its release in 2015, the Broadway musical’s fame soared, garnering 11 Tony awards alone.

I missed the initial "Hamilton" fanfare, but during the fall of 2017 I moved with three musical theater buffs, thus sparking my love for the period piece. Its quick wit, double meanings and insights are impressively written.

And now, three years after the announcement that "Hamilton" would tour in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, I refused to throw away my shot at finally seeing the show come to life on stage.

I’ll refrain from delving into every stunningly crafted aspect of "Hamilton," but here are my biggest takeaways from watching "Hamilton" live at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

First, seeing our founding fathers portrayed by minorities struck me to my core.

"Hamilton" is about the life of Alexander Hamilton and thus features prominent historical figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; all of whom are white. However, Lin Manuel Miranda, the author and original lead actor on Broadway, refused to whitewash the show, despite concerns of historical accuracy.

There is something absolutely poetic about not limiting the actors to the same ethnicities of the original historical figures. Seeing Thomas Jefferson, a historically staunch slave owner, portrayed by a black man felt like a milestone. 

America is a country envisioned by immigrants and built on the backs of slaves. Seeing our founding fathers portrayed by minorities in such a grand and successful fashion impacted me more than I expected. In that moment, it felt like America truly belonged to all of its people, not solely the historically elite.

The next big thing that hit me was the embodiment of the line, “History has its eyes on you." If you’ve listened to "Hamilton" songs, you know that phrase is a repeated theme throughout the entire musical. I’d heard them sing it in the soundtrack countless times, and the motive behind it made sense to me; the decisions these characters were making held weight people would feel for generations to come.

What I didn’t expect was the physical manifestation of that line on stage. During key moments, such as when George Washington and Alexander Hamilton made a private and consequential decision, the extras would stare from the shadows, lining the balconies and watching intently. They never said anything; they weren’t part of the scene. They simply watched motionlessly as major moments unfurled. It gave significant power and weight to “history has its eyes on you." To me, those extras represented history, and even the audience in that moment, watching centuries later.

Next, I loved the extent to which the actors implemented rap and hip-hop culture in the performance. "Hamilton" is not a classical Broadway show because nearly all of the songs are raps. According to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, if Hamilton’s tempo matched that of most musicals, its running time would be nearly six hours. Rapping allows for extremely quick wit and in-depth coverage of the plot line. I knew this going in, but seeing the characters clap-back at each other, engage in rap battles and use currently popular dance moves gave the historical piece a modern vibe.

Finally, the choreography, lighting, turntable and blocking were superb. The set itself is stationary and doesn’t change much throughout the show, but in the center of the stage is a sunken, rotating platform known as a turntable. During songs such as “Satisfied," the spinning turntable in conjunction with the beautiful lighting and choreography truly took my breath away.

I’ll be honest, I started crying halfway through the first act and had worked myself into an ugly cry by the end. The way they tackle the duel scene between Hamilton and Burr … I can’t bring myself to spoil it for you. You’ll just need to experience it yourself.

"Hamilton" is an absolute work of art visually, emotionally and intellectually; and if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, you’re missing out.