10 things you (likely) didn't know about 'Hamilton'

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer
The Schuyler sisters from "Hamilton," two of whom are love interests for the protagonist.

The national tour of "Hamilton," the Broadway phenomenon that's taken the nation by storm, opens at the Fisher Theatre March 12 - April 21.  The tour, which launched in 2017, just celebrated its 800th performance. 

Eager to see the performance? Here's a short list of surprising facts you may or may not know about the world's most famous hip-hop musical.  

1. It may indeed be a hip-hop musical, but "Hamilton" is not all rap. The stirring opener, "Alexander Hamilton," is almost entirely rap, but most of the rest of the soundtrack mixes hip-hop, R&B and classic Broadway songwriting. 

Indeed, "You'll Be Back" -- King George's anthem -- borrows from 1960s British pop-rock, while "Helpless" from Eliza, Hamilton's wife-to-be, sounds a lot like Destiny's Child. 

2. Renee Elise Goldsberry, who created the role of Hamilton's other love interest Angelica, had only one night to learn and memorize what's easily the most complicated rap-infused song in the entire show, "Satisfied" -- and still nailed her audition the next morning. 

3."Hamilton" began life as "The Hamilton Mixtape," and initially creator Lin-Manuel Miranda thought it might just be a concept album, like "Tommy." The Mixtape's public debut came in 2009 at a White House Poetry Jam in front of Pres. Barack and Michelle Obama.  Miranda performed "Alexander Hamilton," and got a standing ovation from the first couple. 

4. Ron Chernow's 832-page biography from 2004, "Alexander Hamilton," famously inspired Miranda to create the musical. But the playwright and composer also read H.W. Brands' "The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr," to bone up on the character who's the play's narrator and villain, and "Affairs of Honor" by Joanne B. Freeman about dueling.

More history: Miranda actually wrote part of the play at New York City's historic Morris-Jumel Mansion, briefly George Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War. 

5. "Hamilton" wasn't born overnight. Miranda said it took seven long years. 

6. The playwright wrote Aaron Burr's "Wait for It" on the A and L trains, going from his home in Manhattan's Washington Heights to a friend's birthday party in Brooklyn. The long trip takes about an hour and a half each way. 

7. The play's success apparently saved Alexander Hamilton's spot on the $10 bill. A new bill was going to feature a woman, but the Treasury Department backtracked on dumping "the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father" after the musical's stupendous success. Instead, five famous suffragettes will grace the billback. 

8. Miranda, a lifelong student of Broadway, drops knowing references to classic musicals into the text, including "You've got to be carefully taught" from "South Pacific" and  "Sit down, John!" from "1776." And George Washington's "I'm the model of a modern major general" is lifted from "The Pirates of Penzance." 

9. The playwright packs a lot in. A total of 20,520 words are crammed into "Hamilton's" two hour and 23 minute cast album -- 144 words per minute.

10. In actual history as well as the play, following the surrender at Yorktown, retreating British troops really did sing "The World Turned Upside-Down" -- a popular drinking song that, intentionally or no, nicely reflected the historical moment. 

-- Sources: Detroit News interviews, The Atlantic Monthly and "Hamilton: The Revolution" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. 


March 12-April 21

Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit 

Tickets: $155 and up 


(800) 653-8000

(313) 222-6021


Twitter: @mhodgesartguy