By Beverly C. Tyler
“A tailor spyin’ on the British government! I take their measurements, information and then I smuggle it!” (Hercules Mulligan, “Hamilton,” Act I)
We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we groaned, and we left the theater emotionally drained, but also intellectually invigorated. We had just been a part of a new, fast-paced, almost non-stop hip-hop musical that chronicles Alexander Hamilton’s life. Hamilton is portrayed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the script, music and lyrics. The historically accurate musical, adapted from the book of the same name by Ron Chernow, takes us from Hamilton’s rise from poverty to a position of power during the Revolutionary War, close to his commanding General, George Washington. It then moves to the forming of a new nation with Hamilton, the other founding fathers, and the people closest to him. The musical also includes his Royal Majesty King George III, portrayed magnificently by Jonathan Groff. “You say the price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay. . . When you’re gone I’ll go mad, so don’t throw away this thing we had. ‘Cuz when push comes to shove, I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”
Only the swift tempo of rap speech could transport us through the myriad of historical events, social situations, and love-hate relationships that existed between these men and women, some well known and many deserving to be better known. From the start of the Revolutionary War, to the duel between Aaron Burr and Hamilton that resulted in his death and his elevation to a revered position in American history, we are transported, along with the cast, feeling more like a congregation than an audience, through the triumphs and tragedies of Hamilton’s life. A brief part of the story includes his relationship with Hercules Mulligan, a patriot and Revolutionary War spy who gathered information on British activity in Manhattan and forwarded the intelligence to Hamilton and General Washington through Robert Townsend (alias Samuel Culper Jr.) and the Culper Spy Ring.
“Hamilton” has deservedly been playing to sold-out audiences since it opened last year at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan. If you are looking for advance sale tickets, consider purchasing them now for next spring or summer. I saw the show on Wednesday, April 6, with tickets I purchased at the theatre box office last July.
Now the drama of the Revolutionary War and the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring continues on Monday, April 25, with the start of the ten-episode, third season of “Turn” on AMC (channel 43 in this area). Lacking the historical accuracy and dramatic impact of “Hamilton”, “Turn” still has us watching the drama of ordinary Long Island men and women, working behind enemy lines, to free us from the domination of the British empire. Watch “Turn,” then come and learn the real and equally dramatic story of the actions and the lives of the people connected with the Culper Spy ring as detailed at the Three Village Historical Society exhibit, “SPIES!”
The exhibit and society headquarters are at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. The exhibit is open every Sunday from 1- to 4 p.m. Walking tours that include the spy story are conducted every month. Check the web site: www.tvhs.org for dates, times and locations.
Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.