Column by Rachel Wood, contributing writer
In honor of its Chicago debut this week, let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects: Hamilton.
The musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, follows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton and his journey from being an orphan in the Caribbean to his untimely demise in a duel.
This Broadway hit has gained a large and devoted fanbase despite the Chicago tickets being close to sold-out for the next month and the New York City tickets almost $400 each. This restricts the audience from seeing the show, but then how are so many people obsessed with an R&B version of a history lecture?
It looks like the internet is the answer again.
Instead of keeping the music locked away until the iTunes digital release date, there was no gatekeeping when it came to the show’s cast recording. The official album was available for streaming the same day on YouTube and Spotify. The show’s title track “Alexander Hamilton” has accumulated more than 18 million plays on Spotify.
In the same vein, nothing in the show is really left out of the album – there’s no dialogue or scenes missing from the recording. Essentially, listening through the album is like watching the show with your eyes closed; you miss the show’s Tony award-winning choreography, but the stellar vocals are crystal clear.
The show’s creator is also a master of connecting with his fans on Twitter, especially with the creation of his #Ham4Ham show. For the musical’s first year of performances, Miranda sponsored a ticket lottery for the general public every Wednesday where theatergoers could place their name in a drawing for $10 tickets to that day’s show. While this was awesome for people who could be in New York, the cast of Hamilton didn’t want to let others miss out on the fun.
Along with the lottery, Miranda hosted short shows, which he dubbed Ham4Ham, in front of the Richard Roger’s stage door, usually featuring performances by the show’s stars. Within a few minutes of the performance, recordings were posted on YouTube and tweeted by cast members so everyone could enjoy the exciting, hilarious show.
In short, the cast and creators of the show have strived to make theater accessible to a wider audience through their unique use of social media and open-access cast album. Between the show’s musical style and inclusive casting, you don’t have to be a “theater person” to enjoy what Hamilton has to offer.
Would the musical have been just as successful with its distinctive style alone? Maybe. But it’s clear that the internet played a key role in developing a large and consistent following for the show, allowing it to take its place in mainstream popular culture.
That being said, if you’re a newfound theater fan because of the show, utilize this online community of theatergoers to explore the world of musical theater. While it’s easy to put the cast album on repeat for hours on end, some smaller and even community shows have amazing songs to offer and could use your support – Miranda wrote and produced his first musical in college, after all. You just might stumble upon the next show that will turn the world upside-down.