(The Hollywood Pantages Theater debuts marketing for Hamilton, which won’t open until September 2017)
I admittedly came into the Hamilton fandom late in the game. For months friends of mine had been exchanging Dubsmash videos of each other doing snippets from the show, and posting links to Ham4Ham videos, interviews with Lin-Manuel Miranda, or “Got Milk” parody videos featuring Aaron Burr actor Leslie Odom Jr. But despite being a big fan now, I scoffed. I scoffed just like anyone else who doesn’t know what we know. Because yeah, on paper, without hearing a second of it, it sounds silly. A hip-hop based musical about a guy most modern Americans only remember because of that aforementioned milk commercial? It sounds only slightly less ridiculous than The Nightman Cometh.
But like a lot of other people, once I finally gave it a listen, I became as helpless as Eliza Hamilton herself. I went from scoffing to buying season tickets to the theater in order to make sure I get to see a showing of it a year and a half from now within the span of a month. And I’m not at all alone. As soon as I started throwing out flags that I was 4Ham, more and more of my friends and I began to have excited conversations about it, and sharing links to jokes, memes, fan art, fanfic, and even cosplay.
(A Hamilton cosplayer from BroadwayCon, Playbill.com)
As excited as I am by the music itself, I really love seeing the enthusiasm for Hamilton in the DIY vibe of its fan community. Currently the show only exists in one location and with tickets in short supply, getting to actually see the musical itself any time soon feels about as likely as a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the middle of the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, growing up to be a hero and a scholar. Faced with an inability to see the show in the near future, fans are taking it upon themselves to liv that Ham Life. In an era of studio-sponsored comic cons and press events, there’s something exhilaratingly refreshing about a fan-driven celebration of a work of art. A group of people who love something so much that they need it in their lives sooner rather than later. People who love like they’re running out of time.
(Fan art for Daveed Diggs’ Thomas Jefferson by tumblr user Janrheeee)
Response to the show has even become overwhelming for some its own fans. Last fall, a group of musical improvisors in Los Angeles created ‘Hamiltunes’, a singalong for the show’s music, which at the time wasn’t even available in an official release and the group had to scour the internet looking for sources. When they attempted to plan a second event next month to coincide with Washington’s birthday, the surge in popularity left them completely caught off guard, “The public Facebook event quickly gained HUNDREDS of RSVPs, and when the Google doc launched, it was like watching the digital Battle of Yorktown,” says Ryan Pigg, a member of the singalong “cast” regarding the feeding frenzy that caused the song signup event to crash the server, and forced the organizers to need to make the event private in order to stay under capacity for the venue.
(The Hamiltunes cast at their first singalong event, photo courtesy of Sam Kirsch)
Speaking of scouring the internet for songs, many fans, like Valerie Lawton, who blogs about the show along with fellow friends and cosplayers in her fan group the Freedom Writers, isn’t content with rocking out to the musical’s cast recording. Lawton has taken to adding tracks cut from the final show to her playlist. “When I found out that that there were some cut songs and mixtapes out there, all of a sudden a 3 hour official album wasn’t enough for me.” She even laments some of their cuts, such as Angelica Schuyler’s kiss off number, “Congratulations” which would have landed in Act II after “The Reynolds Pamphlet.” “This song needed to be in the show. It shows Angelica as Ham’s equal. Every other man squares off with him, and this song was Angelica’s chance to do so as well,” says Lawton.
The Freedom Writers’ Tumblr page is mostly a catch-all for any fandom related posts they come across, but as the members of the group are also all die-hard Doctor Who cosplayers, it didn’t take long for them to want to start dressing as Ham and his crew as well. They started off light, with a week of casual “#HamOOTD” looks in honor of Alexander himself’s 259th (or 261st) birthday, before deciding to do a full on photo shoot with costumes and all.
Lauren Bancroft As Hamilton
The Freedom Writers re-enacting “My Shot”
“Cosplay has always been a creative way to celebrate great characters so when I fell in love with Hamilton it just made sense to suit up. [Lin-Manuel Miranda] introduces these characters and tells their stories in a way that makes you feel very connected to them emotionally,” says Lauren Bancroft, one of the members of the Freedom Writers about their decision to give the Broadway show the same treatment as say, Doctor Who or the Avengers. “And the fact that they’re also the real-life sculptors of the American origin story adds a deeper level of appreciation to an already well crafted show.”
With the topic of representation so present on the minds of the pop culture zeitgeist these days, thankfully, it would be a mistake not to consider the importance of race inherent with the cast of the show. The fact that many members of the cast are people of color despite their historical inspirations really helps fans like Lawton connect to it: “Having a successful show on Broadway, like Hamilton, showcase POC actors is so important, and I think revolutionary in the world of Broadway. It inspires people and gives them hope that they, too, can succeed no matter their skin color. And to have Hamilton and other musicals out on Broadway right now, like Allegiance, [to] inspire audiences in this way is truly amazing to me.”
Frankly, if that were the only thing the show had going for it, that would be enough.
Riley Silverman is a comedian and writer and might possibly be just a little into style and fashion and Doctor Who. You can follow her on Twitter.