Hamilton: from concept album to West End hit

How Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash became the cultural phenomenon it is today.

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We take a look at Hamilton’s journey from concept album to record-breaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.

At the top of the world after In the Heights

In 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Washington Heights-set musical was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and was nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. For Miranda, things were going great. While on vacation, he read a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton and began to envision the life of Hamilton as a musical. Shortly after he began a project entitled The Hamilton Mixtape, a concept album about the life of the founding father.

Mr President

A year later, on May 12 2009, Miranda was invited to perform music from In the Heights at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word. However, he took a punt on his new project and in front of an audience that included then-President Barack Obama and other dignitaries performed the first song from The Hamilton Mixtape, a rough version of what would later become Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton’s opening number.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: (8 of 8)

Work, work!

In July 2013, Miranda performed in a workshop production of the show, then still titled The Hamilton Mixtape, at the Vassar Reading Festival. The workshop was directed by Thomas Kail and musically directed by Alex Lacamoire. It consisted of the entirety of the first act of the show and three songs from the second act and was accompanied by Lacamoire on the piano.

Directed by Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton then received its world premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre on 20 January 2015, officially opening on 17 February. The production was extended twice, and biography writer Ron Chernow served as historical consultant to the show.

The Greatest City in the World

Hamilton premiered on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 13 July 2015 in previews, and opened on 6 August. Most of the original Off-Broadway cast moved with the show, except Brian d’Arcy James, who was replaced by Jonathan Groff as King George III for the Broadway production. The production was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning 12.

Wait for It

Eight years after beginning work on the project, The Hamilton Mixtape was finally released. Of course, now that Hamilton was in full force on Broadway, the mixtape had taken on a different form to Miranda’s original concept.

He had, throughout the development of the musical production, frequently communicated that a “mixtape” of select songs from the show’s score was being recorded. Pre-orders for the album began in November 2016 and two songs were officially released – Kelly Clarkson’s It’s Quiet Uptown and The Roots’ My Shot.

When the album was finally released on 2 December 2016, it debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200, marking the largest sales in a week for a compilation album since Cruel Summer by GOOD Music in 2012.

Check it out on Spotify below:

Hamilton opens in London

After extensive refurbishment works, Hamilton re-opened the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End on 21 December 2017. The production is again directed by Kail and choreographed by Blankenbuehler.

The cast includes West End stalwarts including Rachel John, Rachelle Ann Go, Christina Allado and Cleve September (both of whom appeared in the Olivier Award-winning London production of In the Heights), but also champions new talent – something of a trademark of Miranda’s: the role of Alexander Hamilton, for instance, is played by Jamael Westman, who graduated from RADA last year and marks his West End debut.

Life after London

The legacy of Hamilton continues beyond London too with The Hamildrops, a new project where Miranda will release new Hamilton-themed content every month throughout 2018.

American indie rock band The Decemberists kicked off the project last year with the release of a recording of Ben Franklin’s Song, which Miranda wrote but didn’t end up including in the final libretto; you can check it out below.

The Decemberists - Ben Franklin's Song (from Hamildrops) [Official Audio]

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