Alexander Hamilton slipped out of my mind pretty quickly after the Founding Fathers unit in 11th grade history, and it would suffice to say that he hasn’t returned.
Until this year, that is.
Suddenly, my social media feeds are full of excited posts — shared by friends I did not think were particularly interested in either history or theater — raving about songs about a long-dead, dusty figure from American history and bragging about scoring expensive and coveted tickets to a musical about said dead guy.
The musical, of course, is “Hamilton” — the eponymous Broadway super-hit by a 2004 biography on Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow.
To be fair, the reason for the musical’s popularity in mainstream American culture goes far beyond the limelight of social media. The musical’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, successfully tells what is essentially a history lesson through R&B and hip-hop, genres that are accessible but not usually associated with Broadway. The novelty of “Hamilton” extends to its cast — an unusually racially diverse group of actors who in turn attract a more racially diverse audience than the average Broadway show.
The thing is, though, I know all this about “Hamilton” even though I’ve never even seen the show. It’s undeniable that social media has contributed to exposing more people than ever before to “Hamilton,” Broadway and theater in general.
SO. Starting tomorrow (4/6), live #Ham4Ham shows & lotteries are back for Weds matinees ONLY. Start entering @ 12:00, drawing @ 12:30. (3/5)
— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) April 5, 2016
The brains behind “Hamilton” are certainly aware of its social media stardom and use social media themselves to further the musical’s mission of diversity and democracy as well as to fuel its financial and cultural success. The active @HamiltonMusical Twitter account has over 166,000 followers and tweets out updates about its online lottery for tickets in a relatable voice. The account frequently retweets Miranda (@Lin_Manuel), who has a whopping 332,000 followers and sends out several tweets an hour.
And there is your comfy bed, right where you left it.
You earned this good rest.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) February 23, 2016
Going #HamForHam on Twitter is great, but social media participation should not be confused with actually consuming theater. For shows like “Hamilton” to truly bring theater to the masses, the industry must go beyond using social media as a marketing tool to actually touring in the areas where people who aren’t usually exposed to Broadway live.
But, in able to give a more informed opinion, I should probably go see Hamilton first instead of basing my judgement on social media. Regardless of the countless tweets, videos and articles that I have seen online, there is no way to fully comprehend the immersive nature of a live production until I have experienced it. So, if you have any tips for scoring tickets, let me know.
Email Neha Ramani at [email protected]