When I first listened to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton from beginning to end, I wept. More than once. I wept for the beauty of it, the poignant lessons that we can glean from drama in a different way than we can from anything else, the musicality and the portrait it paints of a group of people that seem familiar but are in many ways an unknown quantity. As soon as I finished that first listen, I listened again, and again, wondering all the while - what parts of this historical story are real? What's for dramatic effect and what REALLY happened during this ridiculously important period in our country's history? When I saw that I could purchase the complete libretto with notes and the story of its creation, I knew I needed it for myself.
And I found the answers I needed. Not only that, I loved this book from beginning to end - how it seamlessly tells how Hamilton the Musical is created, bit by bit and in some parts, Lin-Manuel gives notes about specific word choices and sentences. Sometimes though, it is a grand overview of the play itself, the impact it has already made on our culture and our way of viewing the past. I have never seen the play and I may not be able to for quite some time, but I feel like I have a much better sense now of what it is and where it has come from. I loved the pictures, the anecdotes and I knew this book was well-done when the songs that make me cry when I listen to them (every single time - Stay Alive (reprise), It's Quiet Uptown, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?) also made me cry when I read about them in this book. It delves into the actual soul of what makes us human and helps us find the beauty and power in hope, forgiveness and determination. The book has the lyrics to every song and beforehand it will flesh out the process of creation, telling us about those singing it and often also introduce a behind-the-scenes person who helped make the show a success.
I'm a nerd about it. It is hard for me to explain how the ending makes me feel, as we watch Eliza choose to tell her husband's story, as we are asked to think twice about our opinions of people that are based only on the stories we are told. The history we know is only based on the stories that those that were able to tell, chose to tell. Stories are power. I think I've known this since I was a little girl. And in a lot of ways, I think Hamilton is an homage to the power of words, the ones we use, the ones we read and the ones people say about us when we are gone.