Now that Hamilton has arrived on the small screen, a neat division will form between those switching on: the people who have encountered the musical behemoth, whether by listening to the soundtrack or seeing the show on stage, and those immersing themselves in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s record-breaking creation for the first time. The former will have tissues to hand. The latter would do well to heed a warning: in the second half, you will definitely cry.
While theatre fanatics have rapidly voted It’s Quiet Uptown to the top of online forum charts of “the saddest songs in musical theatre”, Hamilton’s song about the unique grief suffered by a bereaved parent has transcended the stage. It’s Quiet Uptown hasn’t just become a meme (usually some measure of the sheer propensity of tears it induces) but an anthem of salvation.
On the anniversaries of their children’s deaths, parents share photographs on social media, accompanied by the song’s lyrics. Quarantining doctors messaged Lin Manuel Miranda during the pandemic to say the song had helped ease their isolation. The song became the unofficial anthem in the wake of the Parkland shooting, in which 15 teenagers died at school.
“Like all great works of art, it is both totally specific, it has an address, and because of that specificity, it speaks to an enormously wide range of people,” says Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of The Public Theater, the original producing theatre of Hamilton. “Where else can you find such compassion combined with such grace, such pain combined with such understanding?”
Arguably more astounding than the reach of It’s Quiet Uptown is the tapestry of stories it is woven from. The lost sons and grief-stricken fathers, centuries apart, brought together by its lyrics; the way it unfurled from Miranda’s head and resonated in unexpected ways with its co-creators; the legacy that, like that of Alexander Hamilton himself, has become far larger and more powerful than any could have expected.