How Hamilton Blew Them All Away at the Grammys and What It Means for Broadway

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton.

by Celeste Montaño

While Broadway fans were expressing their elation over Hamilton’s win at the 58th Grammy Awards, non-theatre fans were being introduced to the exciting new phenomenon in musical theatre.

This was the first year the Grammy Award for Musical Theatre album has ever been presented on live TV. And not only was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance speech rap televised, in the 58 years the Grammys have existed Broadway musicals have only been allotted airtime on seven previous occasions.

Of course, it could be said that Broadway doesn’t need recognition from the likes of the Grammys;We have the Tonys to validate and uplift the hardworking people on and off-stage on Broadway. But for an industry that has seen dwindling attendance for years and has recently garnered criticism for inaccessibility, Hamilton‘s win marked a welcome change: it indicated that Broadway is once again carving out a place for itself on the national stage.

Indeed, it is a testament to Hamilton’s relevance and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrical dexterity that a Broadway musical’s performance didn’t feel entirely out of place next to Kendrick Lamar’s. By placing Hamilton side-by-side with one of today’s most popular rappers, the Grammys highlighted the current similarities between theatre and mainstream music. In fact, the two acts complemented each other as the most explicitly political displays of the night. Both challenged prejudiced narratives on stages that routinely privilege white artists at the expense of artists of color and enraptured the audience’s attention.

Miranda’s longtime fans no doubt also experienced some déjà vu during his acceptance speech at the Grammys. The rap, the Puerto Rican flag, and the emotion all bore strong echoes of Miranda’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Tony Awards. But perhaps the biggest similarity in the acceptance speeches is that his message remained constant. In both cases, Miranda bypassed formal tradition in lieu of delivering his acknowledgments through a medium that has historically been scorned. In doing so, he made the deliberate choice to highlight what sets him apart from his peers and to align himself not with the majority, but with black and Latino artists, both of which are groups that get consistently overlooked at major award shows.

Admittedly, the Grammys haven’t excluded hip hop or people of color to the same extent as the Oscars or even the Tonys. But the fact remains that people of color have a hard time getting recognized for their work—when there’s an opportunity for them to work in the first place.

Still, it’s hard to say whether the Grammys will continue to make room for musical theatre in future broadcasts. If Hamilton made one thing clear, it’s that the hard working in theatre know how to make a lasting impression. But to keep those invitations rolling in, Broadway must uphold its end of the deal as well: it must remain current by shining the spotlight on stories, music, and actors that reflect the diversity of the world as it is today.

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