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Arthur, W.S., and Lin-Manuel

I finally got around to something I’d been meaning to do for some time: googled “Hamilton Miranda Gilbert Sullivan”, to see if anyone has noted the (IMO) very obvious similarities between Gilbert and Sullivan’s work and Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton. And…. nope. Yes, they list G&S as one of Lin-Manual’s influences, and they note a reference or two in his lyrics, but they don’t do an overall comparison. (Maybe it’s just so obvious that no one else thought it needed to be said? My 11th grade Spanish teacher said I was a mistress of the obvious. She meant it as a sneer (Sra Valchin was not a nice person) but so often it actually does need to be said, because it’s not that obvious to everyone.) There are so many correspondences:

  1. It’s operetta. I’m not entirely confident I’m using the term correctly, but what I mean is that all or almost all of the story is carried by the music. You could do a musical like Oklahoma or Aladdin without the songs – it would be boring, but you could do it. There’s nothing that you couldn’t explain with maybe an added line or two of dialogue. You can’t do that with Hamilton or Penzance.
  2. The cleverness. Quick patter and ingenious complex rhymes paired with catchy tunes, a matched mastery of language and popular music.
  3. The topical references. Both kinds – quick glancing references to events and music of the day as well as exploration of bigger timely issues beneath the badinage.
  4. And finally, the stardom. I don’t know: maybe Rodgers and Hammerstein were this popular in their day, but I think theater as a whole was much bigger then. G&S were as hyooooge (sorry!) in Victorian England as Miranda is now.

Probably either no one cares, everyone thinks this is obvious, or no one else thinks the correspondence is anything unique, but I’m still surprised it doesn’t get said more often.

My status otherwise: almost but still not quite all over the bronchitis / pleurisy. Might try erging again this weekend, I guess.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2017 02:37 pm (UTC)
As a G&S fan this is food for thought!

The word you're looking for in (1) is "through-sung" (sometimes sung-through, as in the Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sung-through): almost entirely music, no or just a line or two of dialogue. That's in contrast to operetta, which contains significant dialogue - in fact, the existence of dialogue, along with generally a light and amusing plot, tends to be one of the key identifiers of the genre.

I haven't seen Hamilton (yet! tickets for a year and a bit), but I found this line from the Wikipedia article interesting: In 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton introduced the idea of communicating dialogue through rap, therefore keeping the spirit of a sung-through musical, without literally singing everything. Which makes me think that in contrast to e.g. Phantom where all but about two lines are literally sung, Hamilton is a sung-through piece in which the rap functions as recitative. I'll have to listen to the soundtrack again with that in mind and consider. Recitative has been out of fashion for a century or so, but I like it, because it is good for delivering characters' thoughts and plot before you go into the next aria.

*As in the first three minutes of this vid, which uses it to summarise the entire plot of the previous 90 minutes, and lets us know the shenanigans have got to.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )