Enough About Hamilton (But Seriously, Buy the Book)

It’s been awhile (some might argue since The Book of Mormon, others would cite Rent, A Chorus Line, or The Black Crook) since a new musical has so thoroughly insinuated itself in the mainstream media and consciousness. New York Magazine’s Vulture devoted an entire week to articles about Hamilton.

Of course, I’m not immune to this (meta comments about this article aside). And the show really is very good. And it does seem to hit genuinely newsworthy milestones frequently. It already recouped! The cast recording is a certified gold record! The Casting Controversy! The Profit-Sharing-with-Workshop-Actors Controversy!

hamilton-the-revolution-coverNow there’s a companion book – Hamilton: a Revolution – adding to the hysteria, with articles building up to, and on the day of, its release as well as articles discussing it’s success. It would be rather annoying if it weren’t for one thing: The book is damn good.

The structure is very compelling: behind-the-scenes essays about the show’s origins presented in tandem with the libretto. Each essay/chapter is devoted to a particular team member/element of the show but also ties directly to a specific song. (Ex: Chapter on David Korins and his set design relates specifically to “Schuyler Sisters”). The lyrics are then laid out beautifully over full color photos with generally interesting and modest footnotes from LMM (they run more along the lines of pointing out historical factoids, musical influences, and discarded ideas than bragging about his own cleverness). It’s a fun read and only occasionally makes you want to gouge your eyes out with its deification of the show. It’s also well presented – elegantly designed and printed on nice, rough-edged paper that almost feels homemade. It’s an attractive coffee table book that you can flip through as casually as a magazine in addition to being a fun close-read.

So do yourself a favor. Remind yourself that there are other shows this season. Read an article about Waitress. Watch Carolee Carmello sing something from Tuck Everlasting (music Chris Miller, lyric Nathan Tysen). And then get a copy of #Hamiltome.

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Beautiful in Cleveland

IMG_6989.jpgWhat is in the Mueller family well? Jessie was Tony-nominated Broadway debut in a revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever that was otherwise ignored. She won her Tony for her star-making Carole King in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. Her sister Abby is now playing the role in the national tour, currently playing the Connor Palace, and whenever she’s on stage things are indeed beautiful.

A. Mueller’s King is intelligent, funny, sympathetic, empathetic, and relatable. And she sings real good too.  The show, directed by Marc Bruni with a book by Douglas McGrath, that surrounds her is polished and professional, if not necessarily distinct (although costume designer Alejo Vietti creates some fun period looks and a few magical quick changes).  The story is somewhat thin–Carole falls in love and becomes a successful writer. She gets divorced and records tapestry–and padded with other hits of the era under the pretext that they were written by friends of King or came out of the same office she worked in before moving to the West Coast. This glimpse into the music biz in the 1960s is not as interesting as it could be, but the baby boomers around me sure loved hearing those songs.

But the show has one clear objective–to make you like Carole King and appreciate the emotional context for Tapestry (an album the production assumes you already know and love…and let’s face it, your probably do). In this–thanks in large part to the utterly delightful Abby Mueller–it is unquestionably successful.