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'Hamilton' at the Grammys: Why the performance will be unusual

The cast of 'Hamilton' will reportedly perform as part of this month's Grammy Awards. Music from a Broadway show being performed at the Grammy Awards is a rarity and shows just how big the production has become.

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    Lin-Manuel Miranda, foreground, performs with the cast during a performance of 'Hamilton' at The Public Theater in New York.
    Joan Marcus/The Public Theater/AP
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Even the Grammy Awards have gotten caught up in the popularity of “Hamilton.”

The cast of the smash hit Broadway show, which is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, will perform during the Grammy Awards, with the segment joining the broadcast live via satellite from the Richard Rodgers Theatre. 

The actors will perform the first song from the Broadway musical, which opened this past August.

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Broadway numbers being performed during the Grammys are far from the norm. The “Hamilton” cast being part of the show will be the eighth time ever that a musical theater production has been part of the show. The Grammys themselves have been held since 1959. 

The last Broadway show to be featured on the Grammys was the musical “American Idiot,” but that had its roots at the ceremony – “American” was based on the music of Grammy-winning band Green Day. 

The fact that the cast of “Hamilton” will be performing as part of the ceremony just shows how much the musical is dominating pop culture. Tickets for the show have been almost impossible to get since “Hamilton” debuted on the Great White Way and the show’s soundtrack had the highest debut on the Billboard 200 chart for a cast album since 1961’s “Camelot” with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton, according to the Associated Press.

The songs from Broadway musicals used to be a vital part of pop music and of what listeners would hear on the radio. Songs from shows like “Show Boat,” “Oklahoma!,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Cats,” among many others, became popular alongside pop hits. 

Now, though, the performance of the “Hamilton” album is more of an anomaly.

Why is “Hamilton” such a big hit? Indiewire writer Liz Shannon Miller notes that “Hamilton” composer, writer, and star Lin-Manuel Miranda is “almost an ambassador for the notion that musical theater can be culturally relevant beyond the walls of the theater… the soundtrack… actually holds up as a complete narrative – Hamilton's life story as connected to the rise of America manages to play as an audio-only experience.” Fans wanting to know what all the fuss is about can still listen to the album if they can’t get tickets. 

Paste writer Michael Dunaway wrote that “the key to ‘Hamilton’’s greatness lies in its words… those words are compelling, stirring, heartbreaking, and just plain gorgeous.”

And the diversity of the cast is important, too, says Dunaway. “How can any American who has a heart not be inspired by seeing such a multicultural cast play the founding fathers of our country?” he wrote. “…The show gives minority kids a way into the story of the founding of our nation, a story where maybe they never saw themselves before.”

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