This year, Hamilton took home 11 Tony Awards, a predictable but exciting sweep that highlights how important and resonant the musical is on and off Broadway.
This major victory for the show is somewhat bittersweet, happening just as contract negotiations are going on, with many of the performers potentially leaving the show (Jonathan Groff left in April, while Phillipa Soo and creator/star Lin-Manuel Miranda are set to leave next month). As someone who has yet to see the show but knows the cast album inside and out, the idea that I may never get to see Hamilton with most of its original cast is upsetting. Thankfully, the cast album can serve as a document of how tremendous this collection of performers was. To celebrate the show’s victory at the Tonys, as well as the sadness of the cast leaving, here is every song from Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording, ranked.
In a way, t’s unfair to rank reprises and songs that exist merely for storytelling purposes alongside the major songs. It’s somewhat akin to ranking the tracks on a hip-hop album and including skits. So, while songs like “The Adams Administration” rank low, they do still serve a purpose. Here, we see what happens after George Washington leaves office and John Adams takes over. Hamilton (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) loses his seat, Adams insults him and Hamilton shoots back. Short and sweet, this one doesn’t overstay its welcome. But is the fat-shaming really necessary, Alexander?
Devastating line: “Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat. Let’s let him know what we know”
Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler (played by Sydney James Harcourt) loses his Senate seat to Aaron Burr (played by Leslie Odom Jr.), beginning the Hamilton-Burr rivalry that will eventually lead to the duel. This one mostly reprises the tune of “The Schuyler Sisters,” but it effectively shows how Hamilton and Burr’s bad blood began.
Devastating line: “I changed parties to seize the opportunity I saw/I swear your pride will be the death of us all/Beware, it goeth before the fall”
A bunch of bros hanging out, celebrating their friend’s marriage. A funny minor song, showing the aftermath of Alexander’s marriage in “Satisfied” and setting up Burr’s “Wait for It,” this reprise also seems to serve the purpose of giving the audience a break in between the two biggest tearjerkers in the show.
Devastating line: “I will never understand you/If you love this woman, go get her! What are you waiting for?”
King George III (played by Jonathan Groff) reacts to the news of Washington stepping down from the presidency and being replaced by “that little guy who spoke to me all those years ago” John Adams. All of the King George songs feature the same melody, but this one is distinctive because it’s the only one where he’s not feeling down. The prospect of Adams’ presidency tearing apart the country fills him with such glee (no pun intended, Mr. Groff) that it’s somewhat intoxicating.
Devastating line: “All alone, watch them run/They will tear each other in to pieces/Jesus Christ, this will be fun!”
Washington (played by Christopher Jackson) gives Hamilton a command and tells of his own first command, in which a third of his soldiers were killed. “And even now I lie awake/Knowing history has its eyes on me,” he sings. The first act of Hamilton is all about regret, and seeing that even the seemingly immortal Washington is haunted by the mistakes of his past gives the tragedy at hand tremendous weight. “History Has Its Eyes on You” is not one of the better songs by any means, but it does humanize Washington, who at this point has been mythologized, and it also gives Hamilton its thesis…
Devastating line: “Let me tell you what I wish I’d known/When I was young and dreamed of glory/You have no control/Who lives, who dies, who tells your story”
A musical interpretation of Hamilton’s responses to loyalist Samuel Seabury (played by Thayne Jasperson), “Farmer Refuted” is a fun song, showing the young Hamilton’s skillful and quip-filled debating (“I pray the king shows you his mercy,” Seabury says, before Hamilton shoots back, “Is he in Jersey?”). However, the cabinet battles handle a similar concept better later on, and this stands as the low point of the masterful first 11 songs.
Devastating line: “Burr, I’d rather be divisive than indecisive, drop the niceties”