Alexander Hamilton is the toast of Broadway: A hip-hop musical about one of the founders of American democracy and government, written by Nuyorican composer Lin-Manuel Miranda who saw parallels between Hamilton and Tupac Shakur and who says, with all seriousness, that the 18th Century man on the $10 bill is, “someone I think embodies hip-hop.”

The bastard son of a prostitute and a Scotsman, Hamilton rose from poverty in the Caribbean to become one of America’s founding fathers: chief staff aide to General George Washington; pioneering architect of the U.S Constitution; founder of America’s financial system; father of the United States Coast Guard; founder of the New York Post.

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He did it all before the age of 48, when he was felled by a dueling bullet, fired by Aaron Burr – kind of like Tupac, who also rose from poverty, shook up the world, and then died young from a bullet.

Parallels between Alexander Hamilton and Tupac Shakur have been drawn
Parallels between Alexander Hamilton and Tupac Shakur have been drawn

One of the original founding fathers, America celebrates Hamilton’s birthday On Monday, and for good reason. Hamilton is not on Mount Rushmore, but he is on the $10 bill. His name and face are known, but his story was more obscure – at least in pop culture circles – until Miranda read a biography on the revolutionary and an idea formed to present Hamilton to the world using a hip-hop framework. It was a revolutionary idea for a revolutionary man.

What began as a four-minute rap presented to President Obama and Michelle at the White House in 2009 morphed into a Broadway musical six years later – one of the most-hyped Broadway shows in the history of theater. Hamilton opened to sold out shows at the Public Theater in February 2015, then transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on August 6, 2015, where it also sold out for months and months.

So is Hamilton Springtime for Hitler or West Side Story? There is no Rotten Tomatoes for Broadway musicals as there is for Hollywood movies – a website that aggregates reviews for movies and TV and has a cumulative score. Combing through the Internet, it is hard to find a discouraging word.

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Elisabeth Vincentelli from Hamilton’s own New York Post quipped: “At last, bipartisanship! ‘Hamilton’ may be the only thing the Obamas and Cheneys ever agree on.”

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“Hamilton the Musical” is seen as revolutionary to some, as the musical employs mostly black and Latino actors and actresses to play the ultra-white Revolutionaries who defeated the British – Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and their opposition, King George IV.

Vincentelli stops short of labeling it revolutionary, however: “Truly radical art is divisive, and under its brash exterior, ‘Hamilton’ is warmly reassuring – a love letter to a land of opportunity where ‘The 10-dollar founding father without a father/Got a lot farther by working a lot harder/By being a lot smarter/By being a self-starter.’”

Ben Brantley for The New York Times began his review with: “Yes, it really is that good,” then explains: “A show about young rebels grabbing and shaping the future of an unformed country, ‘Hamilton’ is making its own resonant history by changing the language of musicals. In temperament, they’re probably a lot closer to the real men who inspired this show than the stately figures of high school history books. Before they were founding fathers, these guys were rebellious sons, moving to a new, fierce, liberating beat that never seemed to let up. ‘Hamilton’ makes us feel the unstoppable, urgent rhythm of a nation being born.”

That liberating beat in Hamilton is propelled by hip-hop, rap, salsa, R&B, jazz, pop, Tin Pan Alley, and the contemporary Broadway chorals.

Alexis Soloski from The Guardian praised Hamilton for mixing musical genres and employing them in an 18th Century story: “But what’s original about his [Miranda’s] work is the fervor and fearlessness with which it borrows and recombines other genres and styles – pop, rock, jazz, operetta. He is a living iPod Shuffle. I don’t know too many other theater artists who could appropriate, with dash and conviction, TLC, 40s girl groups and Gilbert and Sullivan. All in the same song.”

Is Hamilton as revolutionary to Broadway as the Founding Fathers were to the British and to the establishment of a new country? Advance ticket sales in excess of $30 million say it is. Sold out shows say yes and critics around the world were almost unanimous in giving Hamilton five stars.

Alexander Hamilton. The world knows his name, the world knows his face and now the world knows his story. A lot of $10 bills have been spent to produce the show Hamilton, and a lot of people have spent many $10 bills to see one of the biggest Broadway shows in the last 20 years.

Hamilton deserves the accolades along with Lin Manuel-Miranda. Both men came from the Caribbean, both men struggled and worked hard, against the odds to revolutionize the world: Hamilton helped defeat the British and laid a foundation of law and finance to create the greatest country on earth, while Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton has shaken up the world of Broadway.