Ron Chernow was shocked that Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to turn his biography of Hamilton into a playHistorians in the News
tags: Hamilton, Ron Chernow
... The musical is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the brightest young lights on the Great White Way. Miranda’s first Broadway show, 2008’s “In the Heights,” was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four, including for best musical and best score. It was a seemingly unlikely hit about growing up in the largely Dominican Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
But it certainly was no more unlikely than hip-hop Hamilton.
“Through a mutual friend, I learned that he’d read the book,” Chernow said of Miranda. “He was still starring in ‘In the Heights’ at the time, and I attended a matinee. I went back stage afterwards and met Lin.
“He told me as he was reading the book, hip-hop lyrics started rising off the page. I was completely astonished by his response.”
Miranda assured him that he was serious.
“He made a complete believer out of me,” Chernow said. “The story of Alexander Hamilton lends itself to hip-hop treatment. Hamilton’s personality is driven and unrelenting, and the music has that same quality. The music and the man mirror each other.”
“He wanted me to tell him when something was wrong,” Chernow said. “He said, ‘I want historians to take this seriously.’”
There were very few instances where Chernow intervened; most were related to dramatic license to condense Hamilton’s life story into a manageable two-and-a-half hours. So, for example, characters Hamilton met over many years in real life meet during the same scene in the play.
“A lot of people might have started off with the unspoken assumption that history is boring — Lin-Manuel Miranda felt exactly the opposite,” Chernow said. “He felt the most dramatic way to tell the story was to stick to the facts. He felt the story was so sensational you couldn’t improve on it.” ...
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