The Room Where It Happens by Lin-Manuel Miranda
#musiceveryday 9 Nov 2020
"This is a story about America then, told by America now" said Lin-Manuel Miranda about his new musical, Hamilton, in 2015. In it, he tells the story of one of America's founding fathers with a mainly black and Hispanic cast, using a mix of hip hop and more traditional Broadway styles.
Significantly, Miranda reminds us that key figures in the founding of the United States and its constitution were immigrants. Hamilton was, and still is, a huge hit. It won 11 Tony awards (the 'Oscars' of Broadway) and 7 Olivier awards when it transferred to the West End in 2017.
Aaron Burr expresses his desire to run for office and get some influence in key political decisions such as where the capital city will be located. He complains that these seem to be made in secret, notably by Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who seem to be in cahoots with each other. The song also shows the souring of the relationship between Burr and Hamilton (who taunts Burr in the song) and sets off a chain of events that leads to the show's climactic point (no spoilers!).
The Room Where It Happens is a hybrid of 'typical' Broadway musical style and more modern rapping - New Orleans Dixieland jazz meets New York hip hop. If you listen carefully enough, you can even hear a banjo over the shuffle-style, beat-laden arrangement and scratch samples.
The song showcases Burr (played in this version by Leslie Odom Jr) and is effectively the standout number of the second act. Miranda has described it as one of the best songs he has written, joking that he regrets giving it to Burr (Miranda played Hamilton in the original Broadway production). In fact, you do hear Hamilton a number of times in dialogue with Burr, along with punchy, rhythmic support from the ensemble.
Something to do
There's a detailed look at the meaning behind the words of The Room Where It Happens here - an interesting read about the ins and outs of American politics at the very birth of the Union.
You can download a learning resource which uses Alexander Hamilton - the opening song of the show.
Hamilton was filmed on Broadway in 2016 and the film is available to Disney+ subscribers.
More to listen to
Miranda (blue jacket) and the original cast of Hamilton perform Alexander Hamilton in the presence of then president Obama at the White House.
One Last Time from Hamilton - also performed for the Obamas at the White House.
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