Hamilton: The Revolution
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
There is no question at all that the hottest ticket on Broadway over the last year has been Hamilton, a sensational hip-hop musical written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, previously best known for In the Heights.
Even house seats for close to $500 have been almost impossible for insiders to purchase for a Broadway show that will not hit London until late 2017. The only choice is therefore to pay scalpers thousands of dollars for the privilege.
British readers will quite probably never have heard of Alexander Hamilton, although, along with George Washington and others, he was one of the founding fathers of the United States, involved in the war for independence of 1776 and then shaping the country into the new century.
Hamilton was also a highly controversial character who lived a colourful life, making him ideal material for a playwright, although it takes real imagination to turn it into a sensational, colour-blind musical based on hip-hop, rap and R&B.
There may eventually be a movie, while New York does not seem to be as advanced as London when it comes to live broadcasts of theatrical events.
Therefore, anyone living in the United Kingdom or on a limited budget in New York is unlikely to be able to enjoy Hamilton other than through news stories, reviews and reports or possibly via Spamilton, a spoof that has already proved popular with those drawn to the cult.
Theatregoers desperate to share in the experience will therefore be grateful for the publication of a sumptuous coffee table book containing the script, commentary from Miranda himself and a series of articles by collaborator Jeremy McCarter. All credit should go to journalist McCarter, who seems to have spoken to everybody connected to the show and turns its genesis and subsequent development into an enthralling story, almost as exciting and glamorous as the one on which it is based.
The volume allows plenty of time for contemplation and even research. This means that rather than seeing through the holes, as would be the case with almost any other musical, one can enjoy a cleverly constructed historical drama, complemented by the personal story of illegitimate, impecunious Hamilton as he strives to greatness alongside political heavyweights but also seeks romance with one of a trio of aristocratic sisters.
The book is adorned with glorious photos from Joan Marcus and Frank Ockenfels and benefits from production qualities far in excess of almost any current publication, although the American tradition of leaving the edges uncut might strike British readers as uncouth.
Those wishing to enhance their enjoyment, and get as close to the real thing as is possible without visiting the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, could do worse than buy the music, available on CD or download.
Make no mistake, Hamilton is as good as the hype, which means that the book and music will make a perfect Christmas gift for lovers of history, musicals or just a good, old-fashioned story.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher