On this day five years ago, “Hamilton” opened on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the founding father instantly became a smash hit, being nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards and going on to win 11 of those awards.
The musical’s popularity has only grown during its five years on Broadway — last month, Disney Plus released a filmed version of “Hamilton” that brought the story to a wider audience than ever before.
To celebrate the musical’s five-year Broadway milestone, here are five facts about “Hamilton.”
‘Hamilton’ was originally going to be a concept album
Miranda discovered Alexander Hamilton in 2008, while on vacation in Mexico. Coming off the success of his first hit show, “In the Heights,” Miranda was reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton when he got the idea to turn it into a hip-hop album, the Deseret News reported.
“It’s a concept album about the life of someone I think embodies hip-hop: Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton,” Miranda said while introducing the musical’s opening song at the “White House Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word” in May 2009.
“He was born a penniless orphan in St. Croix of illegitimate birth, became George Washington’s right-hand man, became treasury secretary, caught beef with every other founding father, and all on the strength of his writing,” Miranda continued. “He embodies the word’s ability to make a difference.”
On average, the ‘Hamilton’ cast sings 144 words per minute
The scope of “Hamilton” is wide — from Hamilton’s arrival in New York, the Revolutionary War, the first presidential administration, the cabinet battles with Thomas Jefferson, the Federalist papers and, of course, the Aaron Burr/Hamilton duel.
“How much information (‘Hamilton’) conveys, how much it gets into the weeds on policy matters, … the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wordplay and the complexity of rap as a form just allows for a much wordier kind of exposition than you could do in any other sung format,” Eric Hinderaker, a professor at the University of Utah, previously told the Deseret News.
If “Hamilton” were sung at the pace of other Broadway shows, it would take anywhere from four to six hours, according to FiveThirtyEight. The production clocks in at nearly three hours, and according to CinemaBlend, on average, the cast is packing in 144 words a minute.
It took Miranda a year to write the opening song, ‘Alexander Hamilton,’ and another year to write ‘My Shot’
Sometimes, writing “Hamilton” was a painstaking process — it took Miranda one day to craft a couplet about George Washington, according to the Deseret News.
“Hamilton’s slow-going, my friends, but I promise you it will be worth it. It’s hard converting whole swaths of history into a hot 16 bars,” Miranda tweeted in 2009.
Miranda presented “Alexander Hamilton” at the White House about a year after his vacation in Mexico. It took him another year to write the musical’s anthem, “My Shot.”
“Every couplet needed to be the best couplet I ever wrote,” Miranda told “60 Minutes.” “That’s how seriously I was taking it.”
Miranda often wrote ‘Hamilton’ on the go
Miranda wrote “You’ll Be Back” — King George’s hilarious entrance to “Hamilton” — during his honeymoon in 2010, according to Mental Floss.
A lyric from the chorus of “Wait for It,” sung by Leslie Odom Jr.’s Aaron Burr, came to him while riding the subway.
“I was going to a friend’s birthday party,” Miranda told the New Yorker. “I sang the melody into the iPhone, then I went to the guy’s party for 15 minutes, and wrote the rest of the song on the train back home.”
Miranda wavered between playing Burr or Hamilton
“I feel like I have been Burr in my life as many times as I have been Hamilton,” Miranda told the New Yorker in 2015 — after all, it was the “Alexander Hamilton” song, sung by Burr’s character, that Miranda performed at the White House in 2009.
But eventually, Miranda was drawn to the title role.
“I get to be smarter than I really am; I get to be more impulsive than I really am — it’s taking the reins off your id for two and a half hours,” he told the New Yorker, although he did admit to Grantland that Burr’s character gets the musical’s best songs.
“‘Wait for It’ and ‘The Room Where It Happens’ are two of the best songs I’ve ever written in my life, and he got them both,” Miranda said.