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Singin’ Through History!


The cast of HAMILTON in the filmed version of the original Broadway production. Photo by Disney

Oh, say do you see what I see?” 1776 continues to captivate audiences at the Ahmanson Theatre, highlighting the history of our country and the foundations and principles our democracy is set on, while reminding us of the voices left out of the conversations at our dawn. Musicals are a great storytelling tool and offer a unique perspective into the history at the heart of the story. There have been many musicals to take on history and tell legacies through song and dance, take a look at some of them below!

HAMILTON by Lin Manuel Miranda.

What would a list of historical musicals be without the record-breaking production, Hamilton? Described as about “America then, as told by America now,” this revolutionary musical tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton and the struggles and choices he faced during the rise and creation of the newly blossomed United States of America. Applauded for its innovative storytelling, Hamilton heavily explores the birth of our nation through R&B, pop, and soul music, while also focusing on non-white actors and their portrayal of the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Opening to positive reviews in 2015 on Broadway, Hamilton received 16 nominations and won 11 awards, including Best Musical, at the 70th Tony Awards. The production continues to thrive on Broadway and on tour throughout the United States and can be watched on Disney+ in a performance featuring the original Broadway cast.

JUSTICE by Lauren Funderson. Music by Bree Lowdermilk, Lyrics by Kait Kerrigan.

Karen Murphy (Sandra Day OConnor), Stephanie Prentice (Sonia Sotomayor), and Lynda DiVito (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) in Justice: A New Musical at Marin Theatre Company. Photo credit: Kevin Berne

This new musical brings the legacy of Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor to the stage, using song and word to share the experiences of the trailblazers in the judicial world. The show follows Ginsburg, as she joins the Supreme Court, welcomed by the first and only other woman there, O’Connor. United by their passions for equality and the urgency within the highest court of the land, Justice shares the historic legacy of our heroines and the challenges they faced while propelling the next generation of changemakers and trailblazers in the U.S. legal system and setting a new course for the country and world.

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON By Alex Timbers. Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman.

Benjamin Walker as Andrew Jackson and the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

When you think of the early years of the United States, one can’t help but think of powdered wigs and frock coats, but Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson puts a bit of a twist on the seventh American President. With a rock sound, the musical follows a satirical, emo rock star version of Andrew Jackson, as we see the founding of the Democratic Party. Exploring the legacy of early populism, the Indian Removal Act, and Jackson’s personal relationship with his wife, Rachel, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson had its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2007, and received positive reviews, showing audiences that history lessons don’t have to be a snooze fest, but can be just as fun as say, a rock concert.

PARADE by Alfred Uhry. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown

''Parade'' Joan Marcus

This historical musical faces the dark realities of antisemitism in the United States, reminding audiences of the dire need for conversations surrounding civil rights and allyship for the Jewish community. Set in 1913 Georgia, Parade follows the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish American factory superintendent who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee. Sensationalized by the media coverage, the trial stirred antisemitic tensions in the state of Georgia, with Leo Frank being kidnapped and hung by a lynching party after being found guilty at the trial, though the show notes that the true murderer may have in fact been the key witness against Frank at the trial. The events, a Jewish Civil Rights organization. Originally opening on Broadway in 1998, Parade was revived on Broadway on March 16th, 2023, and opened to positive reviews. During their first preview on Broadway, members of the Nationalist Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group, protested the production outside the theatre. Critics have since praised the production, citing the timeliness and urgency of this piece as antisemitism continues to rise throughout the United States.

Assassins by John Weidman. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

A musical by the legendary Stephen Sondheim, Assassins follows historical figures that attempted (whether they were successful or not is another story) to assassinate Presidents of the United States, and the ideals that surround their presence in American history. The show contemplates the themes of “the greater good,” questioning what sacrifices are deemed necessary under certain motives. Originally opening Off-Broadway in 1990 and revived on Broadway in 2004, the show received favorable reviews and won five Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

1776 is playing at the Ahmanson Theatre now through May 7th.

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