Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “Hamilton,” has garnered 16 Tony nominations this year, breaking the record of 15 set by The Producers and later matched by Billy Elliot: The Musical. Though a surprise to no one, the musical’s popularity among critics and the public alike is indicative of invaluable social change.
Unlike the Oscars, which prompted much uproar earlier this year for its lack of diversity (hence, the creation of the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite), the 2016 Tony nominations signify a new age of multiculturalism on Broadway. From a play about the Liberian Civil War to a deaf-inclusive musical, stages across the country are more diverse than ever before.
Hamilton is a retelling of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s life story told through hip-hop and R&B by a cast composed almost entirely of people of color. Fans praise the musical’s casting and style for challenging the whiteness of American history commonly glorified in textbooks–while simultaneously capturing Broadway’s sophistication and skyrocketing to the top of the rap charts. Never before has a major stage production been so culturally relevant and revolutionary with such overwhelmingly positive reception. Even President Barack Obama and Beyoncé have the Hamilton fever.
There are, of course, those who criticize Hamilton for perpetuating the prominence of white narratives in mainstream culture. Some folks are upset that other recent productions by and about people of color, such as George Takei’s Allegiance (a musical about Japanese internment during World War II), didn’t get as much recognition. Fans rebuke these complaints by emphasizing the opportunities that the musical offers to artists of color. While Lin-Manuel Miranda’s source material, the life of Alexander Hamilton, is a white narrative, Hamilton the musical is not.
To paraphrase Viola Davis in her Emmy’s speech: the only thing separating people of color from anyone else is opportunity.
Hamilton begins its Los Angeles tour in 2017 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
To read the full list of nominations, click here.