NEW YORK (Reuters) - Broadway hip-hop musical “Hamilton” is the hottest ticket in town this summer, and George Cox is, in a word, ecstatic.
Cox, founder of Seattle-based Alexander Hamilton Scholars, is one of thousands of Americans who have toiled for years to promote the much-neglected legacy of one of the founding fathers of the United States.
Now, Latino performer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda is making headlines and winning awards with a show that is hailed as transforming both theater and the way Americans think about 18th century history.
“I consider Mr. Miranda a national treasure at this point,” said Cox, whose nonprofit inspired by Hamilton’s life and values has been offering scholarships, mentoring and internships for about 40 high-achieving, low income students each year since 2004.
“I am ecstatic about what (Miranda) has done. Do I understand hip-hop? No! It’s not for my generation. The point is young people do,” the 72-year-old financial adviser said.
“Hamilton” opens officially on Broadway on Aug. 6 after three weeks of previews and a run at New York’s downtown Public Theater earlier this year.
It is a musical biography of the orphan raised in the Caribbean who rose to become the right-hand man of General George Washington, as well as a key figure in the creation of the U.S. financial system and the creator of the U.S. Coast Guard. He was killed in an 1804 duel with then Vice-President Aaron Burr.
The musical uses rap, jazz and ballads, color-blind casting (Miranda plays the ambitious Hamilton and Washington is played by African-American actor Christopher Jackson), won a slew of off-Broadway awards, and is sold out for months.
Cox is far from alone in his enthusiasm. “Hamilton” was the show that U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughters chose to take in during a New York trip in July. Early audiences have also included Madonna, former President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Joseph Biden.
Rand Scholet, president of the 2,300 supporter-strong Alexander Hamilton Awareness (AHA) Society, has campaigned for years to bring Hamilton the appreciation and recognition he believes is deserved.
“We are in awe,” said Scholet, a retired IBM executive who made the trip from Florida to New York earlier this month to see the musical.
Miranda is a member of the AHA society, as is historian Ron Chernow, whose 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” inspired the Tony Award-winning composer of “In the Heights” to start work on his next project.
Nevertheless, Scholet, who has read more than 50 books about Hamilton, was cautious at first.
“We were shocked and surprised at how humorous and smart it was, and that it was respectful of Hamilton. We are the most protective and demanding people of Hamilton ... So we were a little nervous about what take Lin-Manuel would have.
“We came away feeling so inspired. We are just really grateful that Lin-Manuel’s musical is allowing so many people to get to know him.”
Both Cox and Scholet report increased interest in their groups given the buzz surrounding “Hamilton,” and are hopeful that more donations will follow to keep up their work.
But they are most excited about how the musical tale of the self-made man may motivate the current generation of immigrants, and perhaps shine a spotlight on early U.S. history.
“Now we have a new set of immigrants looking to be inspired and learning how the blessings of America can work to their favor. And I hope it will lead to a better appreciation of, and teaching about, our founding era,” said Scholet.
Editing by Matthew Lewis