At some point, we all must look deep within the center of our souls and ask a simple question: “Am I a Hamilton or a Burr?” It’s a slimmer spectrum than the Hogwarts House quadrant, but in the year that gave us Lin-Manuel Miranda’s colossal, paradigm-shifting Broadway smash, Hamilton, it’s become a more profound signifier of identity, benefitting from the fact that it has an actual historical basis. Neither Hamilton nor Burr was throwing away his shot, but they each had different ways of approaching life.
So, which one are you?
Brittani Nichols , a comedian and TV writer, is a Hamilton. Khalehla Rixon, a writer and producer, is admittedly a Burr. These designations may change, however, as the two spend each week parsing the neutron star-dense lyrics of Miranda’s masterpiece on the brand new venture, Hamilton: The Podcast.
“I had been listening to and talking about Hamilton non-stop and my friends were starting to get visibly upset,” Rixon says. “That’s when I realized I needed another outlet to express my love if I wanted to sustain my friendships.”
Nichols, who is equally obsessed, was on board with the idea right away, despite already being committed to co-hosting another podcast.
“When Khalehla mentioned she planned to do this show, I wanted to volunteer but I knew this was the sort of thing you had to be invited to do,” Nichols says. “At one point we were texting about something else and I interrupted with a theory about The Adams Administration and she said, ‘Oh, are we back to Hamilton?’ I think that’s when I proved myself worthy.”
Everyone has their own journey into infatuation with Hamilton, the musical that manages to infuse Ron Chernow’s biography with a relevant comment on race today. The two hosts arrived at theirs in different ways. Rixon begrudgingly admits she first learned about the musical from her mother, a coolness coup for moms everywhere. It wasn’t until NPR released the first and second act of the show online for free, though, that Ham-mania first set in. Nichols, however, had learned of the show from a friend fortunate enough to see its initial run at The Public last spring before moving to Broadway. From the moment the cast album dropped, they were hooked.
“There’s a lot of music so it takes a long time to really get a grasp on everything that happens and once you do, you sort of start to sing along and stop listening for new stuff,” Nichols says. “That’s why I love doing this podcast. It doesn’t let me get too comfortable. When I do the close listens for the show, I always discover something new or make a new connection I never caught before.”
Like other single-subject pop culture-based podcasts such as Gilmore Guys, Nichols and Rixon focus on one piece of the broader work each week. As of February 9th, they have eight episodes in the bag, covering eight songs. By diving deep into each track, the two explore how the broader themes are woven throughout the show, while also taking a more granular view of the historical significance packed into each moment. There’s only one aspect of their grasp on the show that is limited: neither host has actually seen it yet.
This information gap leads to some fun places on the podcast, by allowing the hosts to speculate on the staging of certain scenes. (Those who have been to Richard Rodgers theater will either be shaking their heads at these moments, or shocked by the accuracy.) Not having been to this show yet also presents Nichols, a gender non-conforming queer person of color, an opportunity to discuss how foreign the idea of wanting to go to a Broadway show feels to them.
“This musical goes beyond color-blind casting. Miranda specifically casts people of color for these roles and is creating opportunities for others that he wished existed for himself,” Nichols says. “I think it’s upsetting not only what musical theater looks like, but what your ‘typical’ musical theater fan looks like. I’ve told people who have a firm ‘no musicals’ rule to listen to this album, and after they hear it, they ask for more recommendations. It’s causing people to reexamine an entire genre.”
As Brittani and Khalehla discuss the show and its songs each week, they invite along as guests anyone who is a major Hamilton Head, not just fellow writers, comedians, and producers. They might even have a Hamilton agnostic on sometime as well, to facilitate a possible conversion in real time. Of course, there is one guest they would love to have above all others.
“We are going to get into some fun, interesting, and sometimes crazy theories that Lin-Manuel Miranda may want to come on the show and speak to,” Rixon says.
Will Brittani and Khalehla actually see the show before Miranda makes a guest appearance on their podcast? Will Khalehla ever go from being a Burr to a Hamilton? Will Brittani somehow go from a Hamilton to a Burr? The answers to these questions and more are waiting in the wings for you.