Monday, July 25, 2016

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Statistically, you have almost no chance of getting in to see the uber-hyped musical Hamilton, but you should absolutely get hands on the soundtrack. I was skeptical at first--hip hop and rap are nowhere near my musical comfort zone, but musicals in general are pretty smack dab in the middle so I had to give it a try.

It'd be pretty bad form to recommend music and then claim to have terrible musical taste, so lets just say I'm . . . unadventurous when it comes to music. I can listen to the same stuff forever (this actually comes in handy for retaining my sanity when it comes to kids music) so I've listened to precious few new things for the past . . . decade? But I kept hearing all the hype and wondered if it was actually that good. (Spoiler: it totally is)

The source material for the musical, Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, finally showed up from the library and I am so excited! I'm not a huge biography reader in general, but after falling in love with the musical I'll snap it up.

It's easy to see why Hamilton's life inspired the brilliant Lin Manuel Miranda, and I'm consistently impressed at how well the musical condenses the drama and emotion of the founding father's life. By now I've memorized the lyrics well enough to see familiar phrases waving at me from Chernow's prose, and in the back of my mind the soundtrack pounds through the corresponding scenes in the book quite satisfyingly.

There's plenty of interesting deviations between the musical and the biography, but so far they've only been either implied or minor facts, not anything to change the spirit of the narrative.

From the musical I had the impression that the three Schuyler sisters were Philip Schuyler's only children (and Angelica claims specifically that her father has no sons), but it turns out he had 8 children who survived to adulthood, three of them sons. The edit makes sense though: Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy were the oldest children; their brothers were quite a bit younger. The aura of heiresses also adds to the drama of the musical's romance.

Another notable change is that Angelica was already married before either sister met Hamilton. (Fun Fact! Eliza was the only one of the 5 sisters who didn't elope.) This changes the courtship dynamic and eliminates the tragically beautiful song Satisfied, but the relationships between Hamilton and the two sisters seems pretty faithful to Chernow's account.

I'm not going to bother outlining every deviation between biography and musical, but I may follow up with any that I find noteworthy. Not liveblogging the read, but not bothering to finish the lengthy thing before I write about it.

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