Few Broadway musicals have created the kind passion and excitement across all age groups and demographics like “Hamilton” has. With tickets scarce and at a premium many people are left wondering what is all the fuss about? What’s so special about “Hamilton?” A documentary set to premiere later this year on public television could shed some light on that mystery. It promises to be one of the most highly anticipated installment of “Great Performances” on PBS this season.
PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger announced that it will air “Hamilton’s America,” a feature film documentary providing intimate access to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his colleagues during the two years leading up to the Broadway opening of the musical “Hamilton.” A contemporary perspective of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary musical based on the life of United States Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, “Hamilton’s America” will come to “Great Performances” in the fall 2016, and will be a highlight of PBS’s Arts programming.
The musical that is the focus for this documentary is now playing at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre following a sold-out run at The Public Theater. “Hamilton” features book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy® Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”), who also plays the title role. “Hamilton” is inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, “Alexander Hamilton.” Lin Manuel-Miranda and the cast of “Hamilton” have received coverage from notable major publications including cover stories in Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and T Magazine, along with prominent features in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Rolling Stone to name a few, all of which have added to the “Hamilton” phenomenon. “Hamilton” is the acclaimed new musical about the scrappy young immigrant Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father on the 10 dollar bill who forever changed America with his revolutionary ideas and actions.
“Hamilton’s America” was produced by Academy Award® and Emmy®-winning producers RadicalMedia (“What Happened Miss Simone?” “Keith Richards: Under The Influence,” “In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams” for PBS). The documentary combines interviews with experts and prominent personalities; new footage of the production in New York; and castled expeditions to DC, Philadelphia and New York. Audiences will sit with Miranda as he composes songs in Aaron Burr’s Manhattan bedroom. They’ll take a trip to Virginia with Chris Jackson – the African-American actor who portrays George Washington – and watch him place a wreath on Washington’s grave as he discusses the difficulty of grappling with our founders’ legacy of slavery. Back in New York, Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr. – who plays Aaron Burr – visit the Museum of American Finance to get their hands on some 19th-century dueling pistols and stage a quick reenactment.
“PBS is thrilled to give viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at this sensational–and sold out–Broadway musical,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “With this level of access to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team, PBS continues to live up to our mission of giving viewers a backstage pass and a front row seat to the arts.”
“Since we presented ‘In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams’ in 2009, we’ve been taken by Lin-Manuel’s unique talents and we’re honored to collaborate with him again on ‘Hamilton’s America,’” said David Horn, Executive Producer, “Great Performances.” “The film will offer audiences a fascinating point of view as we witness first-hand Lin’s inspiration and creative process, as well as the lasting impact of Alexander Hamilton on our society today.”
“On behalf of the entire ‘Hamilton’ cast and creative team, many of whom are ‘In The Heights’ alumni, we are overjoyed to be returning to PBS in partnership with RadicalMedia with this project,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator, writer and star of “Hamilton.” Miranda was born in Manhattan, New York City to Puerto Rican parents and grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood in northern Manhattan. “We invited filmmaker Alex Horwitz into ‘the room where it happened’ a few years ago, and he’s captured parts of this journey no one has seen. We can’t wait to share it, thanks to PBS.”
Hamilton was a poor immigrant who built himself up from nothing to become the architect of modern finance and one of the nation’s most vital authors, but his story was cut short by scandal and untimely tragedy. He was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr, and his contributions to modern society have largely been forgotten by today’s general public.
Today, Hamilton’s fan club is vocal and growing, and at the center of it is Emmy®-winning composer and actor Miranda.
“Hamilton” opened on Broadway on August 6, 2015 to rave reviews and unprecedented advance ticket sales. The show is redefining how audiences learn about history–a history rife with issues as relevant today as they were during Hamilton’s era.
“Hamilton” has received unprecedented critical acclaim since its Off-Broadway debut at the Public Theater earlier this year. “Historic,” declared the New York Times’ Ben Brantley. “This is a show that aims impossibly high and hits its target. It’s probably not possible to top the adrenaline rush.”
“Rooted in hip-hop but also encompassing R&B, jazz, pop, Tin Pan Alley and the choral strains of contemporary Broadway, the show is an achievement of historical and cultural reimagining,” noted The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead, while Vulture’s Jesse Green wrote, “‘Hamilton’ not only incorporates newish-to-Broadway song forms, it requires and advances them, in the process opening up new territory for exploitation. Let’s not call ‘Hamilton’ groundbreaking. Let’s call it, with hope for the future, historic.”
“Hamilton” has been feted with a long list of major theatrical honors, including 10 Lucille Lortel Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, the 2015 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for “Best Musical” and the prestigious 2015 Obie Award for “Best New American Theatre Work.”
“‘Hamilton’ (Original Broadway Cast Recording)” made an impressive debut on the charts coming in at #1 on the “Top Broadway Albums” chart, #3 on the “Top Rap Albums” chart, #5 on “Top Digital Albums” chart and #9 on the “Top Current Albums” chart. This roll out stands as the second biggest first week sales ever for a cast recording, behind only “Rent” in the Nielsen SoundScan era. What’s more, “Hamilton” debuted at #12 on the overall Billboard 200 based on strong album sales, track sales and over 2.1 million streams across all digital service providers – the largest streaming debut ever of a cast album.
In addition, “Hamilton” has been seen by some of today’s most important public figures, from President Barack Obama (who attended with daughters Malia and Sasha); Vice President Joe Biden; Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; and Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton to superstars spanning Robert De Niro, Jerry Seinfeld, Anna Wintour, Julia Roberts, Paul McCartney, Busta Rhymes, Helen Mirren, Tom Hanks, Lena Dunham, Madonna, Roger Federer, Katy Perry and Marc Jacobs.