Hamilton Shows How to Merge the New and Familiar in a Powerful Way

Jim described the formula for a winning show in his earlier post, How to Resolve the Battle Between the New and the Familiar:

“What do you call something, even if it’s good, that you’ve seen over and over again? Boring.

What do you call something so new and different that it doesn’t make any sense to you? Weird.

Most live entertainment content falls in between those poles, of course, but as a creator, curator or marketer of stuff in your venue, which is better? Which should you go for if what you’re trying to do is build your audience?

Here’s the formula that works best: one part familiar to two parts new.

The familiar grounds the audience (or potential audience) enabling them to reach out to the new. The new, on the other hand, drives the emotional connection, the excitement and the conversation-worthiness of the event.”

The new off-Broadway show Hamilton from Lin-Manuel Miranda seems to be nailing this concept. The New Yorker recently wrote about the upcoming musical and described it as:

“Rooted in hip-hop, but also encompassing R. & B., jazz, pop, Tin Pan Alley, and the choral strains of contemporary Broadway, the show is an achievement of historical and cultural reimagining. In Miranda’s telling, the headlong rise of one self-made immigrant becomes the story of America. … Hamilton is not a gimmicky transposition of early American history to a contemporary urban setting. Miranda’s Founding Fathers wear velvet frock coats and knee britches, not hoodies and jeans. The set, by David Korins, is a wooden scaffold against exposed brick; the warm lighting suggests candlelight, and the stage is equipped with ropes and iron fixtures that evoke the shipbuilding — and nation-building — of eighteenth-century New York City.”

On the one hand, the show sounds like it could be incredibly risky: A musical about the founding fathers, all played by African Americans, set in the 1700s but using modern music ranging from hip-hop to contemporary Broadway? But while it may sound crazy, the buzz building around the show has been tremendous and tickets are selling out. The fact is, when you have a game-changing, quality show, people will want to see it, even if it does sound a bit odd at first. As Jim explained in his post Breaking the Frame: Nothing Is too Bold to Be Unacceptable Now:

“Almost nothing is too bold to be unacceptable now. Very few of the old norms will withstand the next few years in business, entertainment and in many other areas of our lives. This is not necessarily a bad or a good thing, but it’s real. That little voice in your head telling you that things are changing rapidly is the one you need to be listening to.”

Got a comment or question? Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign Up for Emails