What does a musical about an American founding father, a civil war, and British colonialism have to do with the rest of the world? Very little, in the most technical sense, but that was not the case for Hamilton. The globally praised musical has taken over the world for the past eight years since its Off-Broadway premiere.
In 2023, the production announced that they would be kicking off the first-ever international tour here in the Philippines.
Hamilton revolves around the life, death, and legacy of American revolutionary hero and the first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The musical itself was a revolutionary venture into reimagining what musicals could sound like — while the “Broadway sound” has been associated with moving ballads and showtunes, the music of Hamilton is almost entirely filled with hip-hop.
There are 20,520 total words in the two-act musical, with each actor rapping or singing around 144 words per minute. The result of such a bold decision has more than paid off — Hamilton won the Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and more.
However, long before Hamilton arrived in the Philippines, Filipinos already fell in the love with the musical. In 2016, a Facebook group for Filipino Hamilton fans was formed, dedicated for Pinoy “Hamilfans” to come together and rave about the musical. Over the years, fans staged their own Hamilton tributes all over the country, such as Cebu Literary Festival’s Hamiltunes karaoke event or “Jamiltons” hosted by the CatScratch Club.
Of course, when the international tour was announced with Filipina actress Rachelle Ann Go playing the wife of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler, Filipino fans went into a frenzy. Due to high demand upon the tour’s announcement the production team was prompted to add more shows in the country. Now, the remaining show dates have all been sold out.
“The way Hamilton has portrayed the founding fathers appeals to Filipinos because of its diverse cast. The blend of historical accuracy with modern music styles really resonates with Filipino audience who appreciate cultural diversity,” shares Go in an exclusive interview with Billboard Philippines. “I think the themes of revolution, freedom, and resilience in the face of adversity mirror aspects of Filipino history, making the musical relatable.”
It’s no understatement that what makes the magic of Hamilton resonate with a Filipino audience is its tribute to nationalism. In fact, during the 2016 elections, fans created #Ham4Halalan, a hashtag that chronicled the events of the elections and paired them with lyrics or references to the musical. The lyric “This is not a moment / It’s a movement” has been used by social justice groups for the causes that they advocate for.
“The musical explores themes of leadership and legacy. Filipinos, especially the youth, can learn about responsible leadership and the impact individuals can have on shaping the future of their nation,” says Go.
When unpacking her own character’s passions and pursuits, Go shares that Eliza’s resilience is part and parcel of what makes Hamilton empowering for all. “Eliza is portrayed as a strong and resilient woman, but she also displays vulnerability and emotional depth. Portraying such an influential and strong-willed woman is empowering for me and inspires me to do justice to her legacy through my performance.”
Beyond just history, Hamilton is founded on hope — hope that there is a future beyond today’s circumstances. Hamilton, along with the rest of the characters, push through a war, through deaths, through betrayal to prove that America is a country worth of reimagining. It is a message that truly transcends borders; where even in Filipino history, imperfect heroes took matters into their own hands to build a Philippines that continues to be worth the fight.
In the final song of the show, the chorus asks the audience, “When you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?” In one line, they capture the essence of the musical: when it comes to preserving and championing our collective history, it’s all our duty to keep the flame — to tell the story.