Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #53 Explores the Hamilton Phenomenon

Your hosts Erica Spyres, Mark Linsenmayer, and Brian Hirt are joined by Broadway actor Sam Simahk (Carousel, The King and I, My Fair Lady) to discuss this unique convergence of musical theater, rap, and historical drama. Does Hamilton deserve its accolades? We cover the re-emergence of stage music as pop music, live vs. filmed vs. film-adapted musicals, creators starring in their shows, race-inclusive casting, and the politics surrounding the show.

Some articles we looked at included:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion including Sam that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Breaks Down How He Wrote Hamilton‘s Big Hit, “My Shot”

The current moment has forced the original cast and crew of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s massive hit musical Hamilton to revisit and reevaluate the story it tells about America’s founding. As Miranda himself told The Root’s Tonja Renée Stidhum, “All of these guys are complicit in the brutal practice of slavery, slavery is the third line of our show… that is just a prerequisite for the story we’re telling.” But he didn’t first set out to write history. “Originally, this was a concept album. I wanted to write a hip hop album, so I was never picturing the guys on the statues that are being torn down right now. I was picturing, ‘What are the voices that are best suited to tell the story.’”

Debuting in more optimistic times, when the country had its first Black president, Hamilton declared, says Leslie Odom, Jr. (who played Aaron Burr) that “if this history belongs to all of us… then we’re going to take it and we’re going to say it and use our own words to tell it!” Controversy and critique aside, there’s no denying Miranda’s tremendous gifts as a dramatist and songwriter, on display not only in Hamilton but in the Moana soundtrack.




How does he do it? Riding the wave of renewed Hamilton fandom after the Disney release of the original cast film, Miranda recently sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to discuss his process. When he gets to Hamilton, he gives us a detailed breakdown of “My Shot,” which, he says, took him a year to write.

“It was not only writing Hamilton’s ‘I want’ song,” says Miranda, “although it certainly is that. It was also proving my thesis that Hamilton’s intellect is what allows him to propel through the narrative of the story.” The play’s protagonist proves his intellectual worthiness by mastering and making his own the styles of Miranda’s favorite rappers, from Big Pun to Jay Z to Biggie to Mobb Deep. “I’m grabbing from the influences and paying homage to those influences. …I’m literally calling on the ancestors of this flow. …The ‘Whoah’ section, I’ll just say, is based on the AOL startup sound because I wanted it to feel like …his words are connecting with the world.”

Whether or not any of Hamilton’s younger viewers have ever heard the AOL startup sound, the detail reveals how Miranda’s mind works. His creations emerge from a matrix of references and allusions, each one chosen for its specific relation to the story. Many of these callbacks go over the audience’s heads, but they still have their intended effect, creating tension in “the densest couplets that I could write,” Miranda says. The message in “My Shot,” within the context of the musical itself, is that “Hamilton is the future within this group of friends.” But the message of Hamilton has nothing to do with the 18th century and everything to do with the 21st. Perhaps its most subversive idea is that the highest leadership in the U.S. might just as well look like Hamilton as Hamilton. See Miranda and the Hamilton cast perform "My Shot" at the White House just below.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content:

Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda Perform the Earliest Version of Hamilton at the White House, Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broadway Stage (2009)

A Whiskey-Fueled Lin-Manuel Miranda Reimagines Hamilton as a Girl on Drunk History

The Muppets Sing the First Act of Hamilton

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Muppets Sing the First & Second Acts of Hamilton

Or, at least it's one fine impression of the Muppets.

Here's the cast and find Act II down below:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle
Angelica Schuyler - Camilla the Chicken
John Laurens - Beaker
Hercules Mulligan - Rowlf the Dog
King George III - Animal
Peggy Schuyler - Janice
Samuel Seabury - The Swedish Chef
Charles Lee - Elmo
Congressional Delegates - Floyd and Zoot
Crazy Patriot - Crazy Harry
Statler and Waldorf - Themselves

via BoingBoing

Related Content:

Hamilton Mania Inspires the Library of Congress to Put 12,000 Alexander Hamilton Documents Online

Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda Perform the Earliest Version of Hamilton at the White House, Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broadway Stage (2009)

Lin-Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt Take You Through 22 Classic Musicals in 12 Minutes

A Whiskey-Fueled Lin-Manuel Miranda Reimagines Hamilton as a Girl on Drunk History

Watch Free Plays from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth & More

As depressing articles about the upcoming Summer of COVID-19 begin to proliferate, our hopes for beach days, concert series, and summer camp begin to dim.

Here in New York City, the Public Theater’s announcement that it is cancelling the upcoming season of its famed Shakespeare in the Park was met with understandable sadness.

You don’t have to like Shakespeare to enjoy the ritual of entering Central Park shortly after dawn, prepared to sit online for several hours awaiting noon’s free ticket distribution, then returning to the Delacorte later that night with snacks and sweater and wine.




Performing a quick Internet search to brush up on the plot can enhance the experience, but—and I saw this as someone whose degree included a metric heinieload of The Bard—it can be equally satisfying to spend the final acts enjoying an impromptu, al fresco nap.

Bonus points if a raccoon runs across the stage at some point.

Alas all this must be denied us in the summer of 2020, but it's still within our power to replicate that summer feeling in advance of the equinox, using the past productions that London’s Globe Theatre is screening on its YouTube channel as our starting place.

First up is Romeo & Juliet from 2009, starring Ellie Kendrick and Adetomiwa Edun, though according to the Independent’s Michael Coveney, the show belongs to Penny Layden as the Nurse:

Far removed from the fussing tradition of comic garrulity and the Patricia Routledge factor, Layden plays her as a scrubbed, middle-aged, sensible woman carrying a history of sadness. The bawdy assault on her by Philip Cumbus's melancholy Mercutio is both shocking and plausible, and she retains her quiet dignity while at the same time mourning its sacrifice.

Back to New York City...

Prior to starting your screening, you'll want to approximate a seat at the Delacorte (which, like the Globe, is authentically circular in shape). I recommend a metal folding chair.

Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of water onto the seat if you want to pretend it rained all afternoon leading up to the performance.

Definitely have some wine to pour into a plastic cup.

Slather yourself in insect repellent.

Silence your cell phone.

If your housemate’s cell phone goes off mid-performance, feel free to tsk and sssh and roll your eyes. Honestly, how hard is it to comply with the familiar instructions of the house manager’s speech?

At intermission, stand outside your own bathroom door for at least 15 minutes before letting yourself into a “stall” to use the facilities.

Doze all you want to…. arrange for your housemate to tsk and sssh at you from an appropriate distance, should your snoring become audible.

You have until Sunday, May 3 to stumble sleepily away from the screen, and pretend you’re wandering to the subway with 1799 other New Yorkers.

Then make plans to wake up at 5:30 and sit on the floor with a thermos of coffee for several hours, hoping that they won’t run out of tickets for The Two Noble Kinsmen before you make it to the top of the line.

(Spoiler alert: they won’t.)

Others in the Globe’s free series:

MacBeth, May 11 until UK schools reopen

The Winter’s Tale (2018), May 18 - May 31

The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019), June 1 - June 14

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), June 15 - 28

Clicking the red “discover more” lozenge beneath each show’s photo on the Globe Watch's landing page will lead you to a wealth of supporting materials, from pre-show chats with the Globe’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Will Tosh to photos, articles, and a student challenge specifically tailored to the times we find ourselves living through now.

Subscribe to the Globe’s YouTube channel to receive reminders.

Donate to the Globe here.

Americans can make a tax-deductible donation to The Public Theater here.

via My Modern Met

Related Content:

Take a Virtual Tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London

A 68 Hour Playlist of Shakespeare’s Plays Being Performed by Great Actors: Gielgud, McKellen & More

A Free Shakespeare Coloring Book: While Away the Hours Coloring in Illustrations of 35 Classic Plays

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Depending on how long this thing goes on, she may look into giving Penny Layden a run for the money by live-streaming her solo show, NURSE. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Full Productions of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musicals, Streaming Free for 48 Hours Every Weekend

Writer and theatermaker Nicholas Berger’s recent polemic, "The Forgotten Art of Assembly: Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making," touched a whole plexus of nerves, by positing that the frantic rush to approximate live performance in isolation, using non-broadcast quality home equipment and a live-streaming platform, is an imitation so poor it should cease and desist.

Acknowledging the scary economic reality that drives many of these hastily assembled online readings, solo shows, brand new 24-hour plays, monologues, and inexpertly shot Off-Off-Broadway footage did not get Berger a pass from the theater community.




Nor did attempting to head ‘em off at the pass by fretting that his “cynicism for this emergency style of digital performance will be labeled as pessimism or defeatism” and insisting that it’s his “love for theatre that cringes when (he sees) it inch closer and closer to becoming a TikTok.”

We acknowledge the likelihood that the general public has as much appetite for this sort of theater community infighting as it does for the burgeoning Covid-19 era virtual theater scene, especially if the players are unfamiliar from film or TV.

Not so the free Andrew Lloyd Webber buffet being served up every weekend in the recently hatched The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel.

Here, the excellent production values, famous names, and brand name tunes add up to a genuine television event, especially since each offering sticks around just 48 hours before turning back into a pumpkin.

You’ve already missed comedian Tim Minchin's unforgettable street punk turn as Judas in 2012’s Jesus Christ Superstar, expertly filmed at London’s cavernous concert venue The O2. (Have a look at the above clip for a taste of what you missed—in addition to the Victoria’s Secret-style angels and mega church-style lighting displays, this production featured pole dancing, Anonymous masks, a former Spice Girl, and a close enough Shepard Fairey tribute poster for a Jesus who won the coveted role in a TV talent show.

Regret to inform, you’ve also missed former teen idol Donny Osmond as the titular character in the 1999 remount of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Or not, if Lloyd-Weber takes mercy on hoards of devastated viewers flocking to the YouTube comments section to beg him to air it again, having just discovered that they missed it the first time.)

What’s next? You’ll have to ask the Magic 8 ball, or wait for an announcement, though in the video below, Lloyd Webber pledges that his failed adaptation of author P.G. Wodehouse’s beloved series, By Jeeves, will for sure be a feature of the line up. Other titles in his oeuvre include CatsStarlight ExpressSunset BoulevardThe Phantom of the Opera, and Evita (the latter with lyrics by Tim Rice, Lloyd Webber’s collaborator on Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and several other shows).

Each week’s feature-length show streams free on YouTube for 48 hours, beginning at 2 PM EST.

As with much of the thrown-together programming Berger decries in "The Forgotten Art of Assembly," viewers of these not-quite-live performances are encouraged to cap things off with a donation to a theater charity, with suggested links for giving in the USthe UK, and Australia.

For those who’ve never caught an episode of Great Performances and thus find the concept of watching taped theater “a bit of a headfuck,” to quote Minchin, the advice he gave to Time Out (temporarily rebranded as Time In) is:

You’ve just got to get through the first ten minutes, and then it’s an extraordinary experience – because you’re actually watching people in real time.

Subscribe to The Shows Must Go On here.

#WithMe

Related Content:

Tim Minchin Presents “9 Rules to Live By” in a Funny and Wise Commencement Speech (2013)

Soothing, Uplifting Resources for Parents & Caregivers Stressed by the COVID-19 Crisis

Live Performers Now Streaming Shows, from their Homes to Yours: Neil Young, Coldplay, Broadway Stars, Metropolitan Operas & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her unprompted contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway in Isolation scene is a hastily assembled tribute to the classic 60s social line dance, The Madison. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Live Performers Now Streaming Shows, from their Homes to Yours: Neil Young, Coldplay, Broadway Stars, Metropolitan Operas & More

You've always read books in the comfort of your own home. Though it may not be the full cinematic experience, you can also watch films there, in a pinch. Now that such a pinch has come, in the form of coronavirus pandemic-related quarantines and other forms of isolation, few art forms must be feeling it more than live music and theatre. Though we've all watched recorded performances now and again, we know full well that nothing can quite replicate the felt energy of the live experience. Until we can get out and enjoy it once and again, a variety of performers and venues — from rock stars and Broadway luminaries to independent theatre companies and the Metropolitan Opera — have stepped up to provide as much as they can of it online.

"The live music industry has seen an unprecedented fallout in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak," writes Consequence of Sound's Lake Schatz. "Highly anticipated tours from Foo Fighters, Billie Eilish, Thom Yorke, and Elton John have all been postponed, and major festivals such as Coachella and South By Southwest have had to drastically change their plans last minute."




In response, "artists are turning to livestreaming to stay in touch with their fans. Neil Young, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, and John Legend are streaming intimate concerts live from their very own homes." Young's "Fireside Sessions" launched on the Neil Young Archives site last Monday.

That same day Martin, leader of Coldplay, "streamed a mini concert on Monday as part of Instagram’s 'Together, at Home' virtual series" (which will continue next week with John Legend). Even more ambitiously, Gibbard has a daily streaming series set to launch next Tuesday on YouTube and Facebook. "Aptly titled 'Live From Home,' the daily live sessions will see the indie rocker take requests and even possibly duet with special guests," writes Schatz. (You can view Gibbard's first Live from Home session at the top of the post.)

"Additionally, punk rockers Jeff Rosenstock and AJJ are both scheduled to perform a special concert that will be livestreamed on Specialist Subject’s Instagram Stories. That event goes down Tuesday afternoon beginning 7:45 p.m. ET." Putting the show on by any technological means available is, we can surely agree, very much the punk-rock way. And even apart from broadcasting concerts online, from home or elsewhere, "acts like Deafheaven are releasing live albums (sans any audience)." Deafhaven, if you don't know them, are a post-metal band out of San Francisco; on the other end of the musical spectrum, country star Keith Urban streamed a live concert on Instagram from his basement this past Tuesday.

Over at the Theatre Development Fund (TDF), Raven Snook rounds up a variety of New York theatre institutions now streaming online. These include 92nd Street Y (whose performance archive we've previously featured here on Open Culture); BroadwayWorld, which has come up with "daily Living Room Concerts, a series of one-song performances recorded by Broadway stars in their respective homes"; The Metropolitan Opera, whose nightly streaming of "previously recorded presentations" we mentioned earlier this week.

Other participants in this push include The Actors Fund, with its new "daily performance/talk show Stars in the House" in which "Broadway luminaries will sing and chat from their homes," and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, which "kicks off its Folksbiene LIVE!: An Online Celebration of Yiddish Culture" this week, all streamed free on its Facebook page. And be sure to visit the site of New York non-profit arts presenter and producer The Tank, whose new CyberTank series live streams a "weekly, remote, multidisciplinary arts gathering" every Tuesday. Whatever your preferred variety of live performance, you're sure to be covered until you can get back out to the theatre, the club, the opera houses, or wherever you enjoy your live culture of choice.

Related Content:

The Met Opera Streaming Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

92nd Street Y Launches a New Online Archive with 1,000 Recordings of Literary Readings, Musical Performances & More

Use Your Time in Isolation to Learn Everything You’ve Always Wanted To: Free Online Courses, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Coloring Books & More

Relive 16 Hours of Historic Live Aid Performances with These Big YouTube Playlists: Queen, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young & Much More

Going to Concerts and Experiencing Live Music Can Make Us Healthier & Happier, a New Psychology Study Confirms

Pink Floyd Films a Concert in an Empty Auditorium, Still Trying to Break Into the U.S. Charts (1970)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Actor Margaret Colin (VEEP, Independence Day) Joins Pretty Much Pop #28 to Take On the Trope of the Alpha Female

What's the deal with images of powerful women in media? The trope of the tough-as-nails boss-lady who may or may not have a heart of gold has evolved a lot over the years, but it's difficult to portray such a character unobjectionably, probably due to those all-too-familiar double standards about wanting women in authority (or, say, running for office) to be assertive but not astringent.

Margaret was the female lead in major films including Independence Day and The Devil's Own, is a mainstay on Broadway, and has appeared on TV in many roles including the mother of the Gossip Girl and as an unscrupulous newscaster on the final seasons of VEEP. Her height and voice have made her a good fit for dominant-lady roles, and she leads Mark, Erica, and Brian through a quick, instructive tour through her work with male directors (e.g. in a pre-Murphy-Brown Dianne English sit-com), playing the lead in three Lifetime Network movies, on Broadway as Jackie, and opposite Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Melanie Griffith, Michael Shannon, Wallace Shawn, and others.

Given the limitations of short-form storytelling in film, maybe some use of stereotypes is just necessary to get the gist of a character out quickly, but actors can load their performances with unseen backstory. We hear about the actor's role in establishing a character vs. the vision of the filmmakers or show-runners. Also, the relative conservatism of film vs. stage vs. TV in granting women creative control, the "feminine voice," why women always apparently have to trip in movies when chased, and more.

A few resources to get you thinking about this topic:

Someone's posted a tape of Carousel featuring Erica and Margaret.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

More in this category... »
Quantcast