The degree to which social media impacts a Broadway show’s day-to-day existence astounds Hamilton’s orchestrator, arranger, musical director and conductor, Alex Lacamoire. “Social media wasn’t what it is now [even] when In The Heights was running [from 2008 to 2011]. Lin [Manuel-Miranda, In The Heights and Hamilton creator,] used to make his own videos and post on YouTube. He was the one filming and editing. Now, we have a guy on our team whose job is to be in charge of social media. That’s a thing that has to be factored in [and] managed. [It’s] part of how a show is known about.”
Broadway executives scoffed, just a few years back, at how seemingly futile it was to promote shows on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Unlike most forms of traditional marketing and advertising, those platforms had no indication that the recipients of messages would have access to New York or the ability to buy Broadway tickets. That incredulity has transformed to glee at the outlet’s ability to instantly transmit information about Broadway to people all over the globe. The returns might not happen as fast as those in traditional advertising, but social media cultivates young audiences to become life-long theatre supporters.
Plus, there’s one show that’s given the internet something worth buzzing about. “ Hamilton has reminded us of the magic of live [theatre], and the possibilities of it,” says Charlie Rose, host and executive producer of “Charlie Rose,” co-anchor of “CBS This Morning” and “60 Minutes” correspondent. His “60 Minutes” exposé on Hamilton brought the game-changer’s creation story to America and further increased the show’s visibility, while endorsing the significance of the piece. The story cemented Hamilton’s status as a catalyst for, and product of, a cultural shift. “Theatre has always [been] an important part of the lives of New Yorkers, [but] it has more currency today. It has a universal resonance.”
Hamilton has been a revolution for Broadway. With its $57 million in advance sales (as of November 9, 2015), its unprecedented rave reviews, its skilled integration of hip hop and rap with musical theatre and its stance on diversity, the show has entered the zeitgeist swiftly and powerfully. Even President Barack Obama has seen the musical—twice.
“Obama has taken ownership of Hamilton, in a way,” Lacamoire shares. “When he hears someone talk passionately about Hamilton, he [says]: ‘You know, that show had its first song performed here at the White House.’”
In November of 2015, Hamilton’s album hit number one on the Billboard rap charts—something never before achieved by a Broadway cast recording. The show’s sound bridges musical theatre and the kind of music one would hear on the radio today, while never losing sight of its characters or narrative. We’re suddenly back in an era similar to 1935, when the top 60 songs on the radio included tunes by musical theatre writers Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, and George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin.
Lacamoire, who was also one of the album’s producers, confides that he wanted the record to really conjure the show for listeners, with a huge focus on vocals and lyrics—but that he also wanted it to have “true hip hop grit.” Much like his work on the album, he worked to achieve a balance between the two sound styles in the live production.
“It was important that the band play the majority of the music live. Hip hop by nature is digital music. It’s created by computers,” Lacamoire explains, sharing that only some moments in the show are partially pre-programmed or pre-recorded. “It was important to me to have an organic element [because] that’s where the heart lies. I’m so inspired by seeing live bands put together hip hop sounds—something that sounds pristine, as if it were in a studio, and yet you have a live [band] making it happen.”