How Broadway Has Changed: The Hamilton Effect

Broadway has always been an integral part in entertaining the public, especially in New York City. It brings in millions of dollars each week and provides the public with a way to escape their reality to watch a story filled with music and spectacle, but over the years the curve has changed drastically for the better. According to “The Demographics of the Broadway Audience” by The Broadway League, “In the 2018–2019 season, Broadway shows welcomed 14.8 million admissions, an all-time high.”[1] This is an extreme success for the Broadway community. Over the years, the attraction to Broadway has grown stronger and stronger due to huge money makers, such as Beetlejuice and Hamilton.

Hamilton: The American Musical, was one of the biggest Broadway smash hits that the musical theatre community has ever seen but phenomenon’s such as these are years in the making. When Lin Manuel-Miranda, the playwright and starring lead, Alexander Hamilton himself, was invited to the White House in 2009 for their Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word, where he performed an early version of the title song, “Alexander Hamilton”. They posted the performance on YouTube and it currently has 7.5 million views[2]. From there, the show took off unlike any show has seen before. The fan base grew immensely and gained popularity faster than most shows. When the show hit Broadway in 2015, tickets started selling out and celebrities from all over would come to see the show, such as The Jonas Brothers, President Barack and Michelle Obama, and Megan Markle and Prince Harry, just to name a few. When the 2016 Tony awards came around, Hamilton won an almost record breaking 11 Tony Awards, which is one away from the most Tony’s won by a production ever, which was The Producers in 2001.

The Tony Awards are the awards given to the Broadway community for excellence in performing arts. According to the Tony Award’s website, “The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards® got their start in 1947 when the Wing established an awards program to celebrate excellence in the theatre. Named for Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing who had recently passed away, the Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. Vera Allen, Perry’s successor as chairwoman of the Wing, presided over an evening that included dining, dancing, and a program of entertainment. The dress code was black tie optional, and the performers who took to the stage included Mickey Rooney, Herb Shriner, Ethel Waters, and David Wayne. Eleven Tony’s were presented in seven categories, and there were eight special awards, including one for Vincent Sardi, proprietor of the eponymous eatery on West 44th Street. Big winners that night included José Ferrer, Arthur Miller, Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazan and Agnes de Mille.”[3] Since then, the awards have evolved drastically. According to their website, they now have 26 competitive categories.

A student at the University of New Hampshire, Charlotte Skala, wrote an article about what she calls “The Hamilton Effect”, which discusses how much impact the musical itself had on history of education as well as theatre history. The paper is titled “The Hamilton Effect: How One Musical Made the Founding Fathers Cool, and What it Means for Historic Sites and the Academic World”. Her thesis states,

“In Hamilton, it is Lin-Manuel Miranda who tells Alexander Hamilton’s story, and as a result there are some notable historical inaccuracies that both academics and historic sites

noticed. The first chapter of this thesis will chronologically examine historians’ analyses of

Hamilton, and discuss the themes of race and historical accuracy in the musical. The second

chapter of this study will examine how individual historic sites have responded to Hamilton.

Together, the thesis shows how historians both in academia and in museums have responded to

the historical popular culture phenomenon Hamilton: An American Musical.”[4]

She goes on to talk about the inaccuracies within the book of the musical in the first chapter of her article, which she says could potentially misinform the audience. Lin Manuel-Miranda himself has not shied away from this fact. In a YouTube interview done by Genius, he talks about the historical inaccuracies and why he chose to portray them that way. When the interviewer asked about Phillip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s father in law, and how he was documented to have around 15 children instead of the three mentioned in the script, Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy, Lin Manuel-Miranda said,

“I forgot, and I think my brain wanted me to forget because it’s stronger dramatically if societally [Angelica Schuyler] can’t marry him. In reality she was married when they met… depending on who tells the story, even of this morning, of you and I talking, you’re gonna give one version of the story and I’m gonna give one version of the story and history’s completely different based on our accounts. To me it’s super effective to see courtship from Eliza’s perspective and rewind the whole thing…. The dramatic license I had to take was first making [Angelica] single, and two, pushing [Phillip Schuyler’s] son’s away because that was a very real thing for women, I mean if you wanted a place in society… politics was not available to Angelica. What was available to her was who she married, and so using that as her only lever of power.”[5]

To date, Hamilton is contemporary Broadway’s most popular and well-known play across the world. To learn more about Hamilton, you can visit their website here.[6]


[1] https://www.broadwayleague.com/research/research-reports/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNFf7nMIGnE

[3] https://www.tonyawards.com/history/our-history/

[4] https://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1440&context=honors

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRJEOsyCfvQ

[6] https://hamiltonmusical.com/new-york/

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