On Hamilton’s Call for “Non-White Actors”

Look, I love Hamilton.

Seriously.  I have been listening to the soundtrack nonstop all month.  It is perfect music to listen to while I’m working at the hotel on the weekends, facing a mountain of laundry.  As I do with every musical soundtrack I adore, I imagine how much fun it would be to play Angelica.  (Unlikely, I can’t rap worth a damn. I am the Iggy Azalea of rapping, I can only mimic very poorly).  Or Eliza–I love belting out “Burn”.  My baby brother and I are practicing the various rap battles furiously.

Not to mention, Lin-Manuel Miranda is quickly climbing to the top of my inspiration list.  The man read a biography of Alexander Hamilton on a flight and decided to write a hip hop musical about him.  And then he did it.  Not only did he do it, he did it well.  Extraordinarily well.  Brilliantly well.  His crazy talent is incredibly intimidating, to say the least.

So yes–I daydream about starring in Hamilton.  Just like I daydreamed about starring in Wicked when I was in high school.  And Rent.  And Sound of Music.  It’s a part of loving musicals and being a drama nerd.

But here’s the thing.  How many black girls my age daydreamed about playing Maria Von Trapp?  How many were shot down because of the color of their skin?  How many black girls my age auditioned for Elphaba and got passed over for a less-talented white girl?  How many times have we had all-white productions of West Side Story?  (The answer is extremely uncomfortable, thankfully we’re getting a lot better at this in recent years…)  Hell, even in the opera world, we still have white actresses playing Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly.

So here we have this fantastic musical that is not only a celebration of hip hop, rap, R&B, and jazz, but is a celebration of American history.  Lin-Manuel Miranda has taken our history of “old dead white guys” and made it engaging, made it relatable, connected it with non-white young people who otherwise wouldn’t give a crap about how America started.  (Why should they when their ancestors were barred from contributing a significant role?)  Think about it.  There’s a reason why the majority of the cast is non-white and why the only lead character who IS white is King George III, the oppressive tyrant who gleefully mocks and degrades our leads throughout the show.

This resonates with people for a reason because it’s a reality for a lot of people today.

Don’t whitewash Hamilton.  Don’t take away what made it engaging to begin with.  Yeah, it sucks that I’ll never get to play Eliza Hamilton, but you know what?  Maybe for once, it’s not about white people.  Maybe for once, we all could step aside and let others shine.

 

 

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