Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How historical is "Hamilton"? How hip is Video Cabaret?

I do like the idea of the hottest ticket on Broadway being a hiphop musical about some 18th century politician: "Hamilton" by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

But it's getting some pushback from historians, even though they like the show.
“One of the most interesting things about the ‘Hamilton’ phenomenon,” [historian Annette Gordon-Reed] wrote last week on the blog of the National Council on Public History, “is just how little serious criticism the play has received.”
Ms. Gordon-Reed was responding to a critical essay by Lyra D. Monteiro, in the journal The Public Historian, arguing that the show’s multiethnic casting obscures the almost complete lack of identifiable African-American characters, making the country’s founding seem like an all-white affair.
“It’s an amazing piece of theater, but it concerns me that people are seeing it as a piece of history,” Ms. Monteiro, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark, said in an interview.
Historian Ron Chernow, who wrote the biography that inspired the playwright, offers a defence that sounds like a confirmation of Lyra Monteiro's point about the play:
Mr. Chernow, who is the show’s historical consultant, said the criticisms by Ms. Monteiro and Ms. Gordon-Reed were based on “an enormous misunderstanding” of the show, which dramatizes “a piece of political history at a very elite” — and all-white — “level of society.”
I'd still see the show. And Chernow's big serious biography has returned to the bestseller list, so....

Meanwhile, if you are in Toronto and not up for jaunting to New York for the weekend, there's impressive historical theatre in the 'hood. Michael Hollingsworth and Video Cabaret's nth revival of The History of the Village of the Small Huts is packing them in at the Distillery District, the latest being "The Great War."  Critical and popular reaction is ace.  Any historians weighing in?
Follow @CmedMoore