Saturday, January 12, 2019

Day 317-Heinz History Center Lecture-" Hamilton-Remix:History Meets Show Biz"- What's the Buzz

Pittsburgh is going Hamilton crazy with the Broadway musical playing for almost the entire month of  January at the Benedum Center. I don’t have a golden ticket to Hamilton and frankly the mania surrounding it  has peaked my curiosity about this hip-hop musical. My hope was that the Heinz History Center lecture, by historian Dr. Richard Bell,  Hamilton-Remix:History Meets Show Biz,  might not only refresh my knowledge of  American history  but  also explain the buzz about this show.  

I was curious to understand what draws the masses to a show with dancing and singing American Founding Fathers.  Pittsburgh definitely has the fever with an awe striking sold out crowd of 500 eager participants. I felt the excitement in the room. There was a buzz that many had seen the musical multiple times. As I looked around at the audience, I wondered, “Am I the only one that does not have a ticket to the show or that had not seen it?”

 Even being a fan of history and the theater, I was a bit pensive about my first history lecture being 90 minutes long.  Dr. Richard Bell, in his ironically British accent, gave his thoughts on the many clever details in the show, historical significance of the show, and where Broadway hit the historical target and where it fell short. His extensive knowledge mirrored his quick wit as he entertained using back up visuals and clips. We all enjoyed the adorable video of his 4 year old daughter rapping to one of her favorite Hamilton songs. When I looked down at my watch, I could not believe that 60 minutes had passed.

It matters if this show is good history  because  it is seen by 7000 viewers a night or  2.5 million in a year. As Bell put it, this gives this  musical a much “greater penetration than any history book.”  It would be a shame if that many people were getting “fake history.”  I was relieved to hear that, for the most part, the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda “got a lot right”.

Bell provided some plot point problems in a handout. He focused on 4 historical inaccuracies: 1) the portrayal that in 1776  everyone was in favor of a revolution,  2) the  lack of woman  participation in the cause, 3) the painting of  upward mobility of immigrants and 4) the scrubbing of Alexander Hamilton’s life of any involvement in  slavery.

What I found most intriguing was the cleverness (and many would say genius) of the show illustrated in Bell’s presentation.  The casting of the main characters was done with hip hop artists in mind. Many characters replace dialogue with  energetic rhythmic rap and hip-hop that “snaps you to attention”. In a play about a revolution it is a fitting use of  this genre of music which is associated with struggle and strength.  

I was amazed how many riffs and references  to other Broadway shows (Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Rent and more) are intermingled in this show.  The creator paid a lot of attention to details. The chorus costumes are period above the waist and modern below.  Alexander Hamilton moves the way the character thinks. Angelica Schuyer (sister-in-law of Hamilton) is played as a strong feminist whose rapping speed mirrors her speed of thinking (listen to"Satisfied").

Hamilton's Thomas Jefferson quotes a familiar phrase by rapper Biggie Smalls, “And if ya don’t ya know”.  Thanks to Dr. Bell, I now know a little bit more about why there is so much mania surrounding this show. Now I am ready for the sound track just in case I land a ticket
(listen here).   

(For more Heinz History Center Events  or to tour the center go to )

Spiritual Reflection
Proclaim this among the nations;Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack (Joel 3:9)

Other Sources

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

January Preview of Events

Happy New Year.  I hope that you will start the new year off  by joining  me in person or vicariously as I explore these January events and more. 

 We Shall OvercomeA Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. featuring Damien Sneed-January 15, 2019-August Wilson Center

We Shall Overcome is a musical and poetic production. A repertoire of  music that ignited civil rights activist and defenders will be performed with excerpts from Dr. Martian Luther King’s recorded speeches. This should be a night of music and inspiration with  Damien Sneed. Damien Sneed has  collaborated with jazz trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis and has toured with Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and the Clark Sisters.    

Join me for We Shall Overcome  and enjoy an inspirational night of music on Jan 15, 2019 at the August Wilson Center. For tickets go to
 Blog Post to Follow  

 Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -January 29 through February 3, 2019 -Benedum Center

The 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was one of my all time favorite childhood movies. My son loved the Tim Burton 2009 remake with Johnny Depp. Whichever version you prefer, the story takes you to a world of imagination when Charlie Bucket and his grandfather find the golden ticket to tour the eccentric Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will bring those Oompa-Loompas, inventions and featured songs from the original film “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” to the stage. 

Join me for a night of pure imagination at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from January 29, 2019 to February 3, 2019 at the Benedum Center.  For your golden ticket go to

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AfterWARds-Mozart’s Idomeneo Reimagined-Pittsburgh Opera- January 26, 29, and February 1, 3, 2019- CAPA Theater

AfterWARds-Mozart's Idomeneo Reimagined is an opera sung  in Italian to the words and music of Mozart. It is set on the island of Crete following the Trojan War. This 80 minute opera  collides the words of  four strong characters; the King of Crete, his son, the Princess of Troy and Princess of Argo.  The Princess of Troy is rescued from a shipwreck by the King’s son and love, betrayal, and eventually forgiveness results.  
 Join me for AfterWARds and enjoy Mozart’s music sung by Pittsburgh’s resident artist  in the intimate setting of the CAPA Theater. For tickets go to  

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Heinz History Center-Hamilton Remix: History Meets Show Biz-Lecture 
January 10, 2019

Pittsburgh is going Hamilton crazy with the Broadway musical playing for almost the entire month of  January at the Benedum Center. Even if you don’t have a golden ticket to the musical, Hamilton-Remix:History Meets Show Biz  should be an interesting night to learn the real historical facts and discover where Broadway hits the target or falls short. I really don’t remember much from my high school history classes so I am looking forward to Dr. Bell’s presentation on Alexander Hamilton’s American story. I am also quite curious to understand what is behind the mania surrounding this show. 

Join me on Jan 10, 2019 for a fun history lesson on Alexander Hamilton  or for a little historical preparation if you have one of those golden tickets to the Broadway show. For tickets go to     

Blog Post here