'Hamilton' cast album makes history singing about history
Nov. 03, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — The cast album from the Broadway smash "Hamilton" has done something few such recordings have done in quite some time. How long? Since Richard Burton was King Arthur onstage — the first time.
Atlantic Records said last week that "Hamilton" has so far sold over 54,000 albums, had more than 16 million songs streamed and become the highest debuting cast recording on the Billboard Top 200 in over 50 years — not typical numbers for Broadway.
"I don't know if the bubble has popped, but it definitely includes so many more people than normal. That's the beauty of it," said Renee Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler in the show.
The groundbreaking, biographical hip-hop show about the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton has taken Broadway by storm. The digital album came out Sept. 25 and a two-disc CD was released Oct. 16.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical tells the true story of an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who rises to the highest ranks of American society, told by a young African-American and Latino cast.
It's got a terrific varied score, ranging from pop ballads to sexy R&B to rap battles over fiscal policy, with lyrical nods to Gilbert and Sullivan, Jason Robert Brown, "South Pacific" and the Notorious B.I.G. President Barack Obama visited the show's Broadway home Monday night after a performance to speak at a Democratic Party fundraiser. He saw the musical there this summer.
Not surprisingly, the cast album debuted as the No. 1 Broadway Cast Album, but it also debuted as the No. 3 Rap Album and No. 9 on the Top Current Albums chart, something cast recordings rarely do. The album features 46 songs over 2½ hours.
Goldsberry said she has gone to pick up her 6-year-old son from school and children will come up to her rapping some of the musical's songs. She also was recently featured at the BET Hip-Hop Awards with Miranda and fellow cast member Daveed Diggs. "The acceptance that the hip-hop audience had to Broadway theater kids blows my mind," she said.
The last time a cast recording scored better on its debut on the Billboard Top 200 was in 1961, when "Camelot" starred Julie Andrews and Burton on Broadway and John F. Kennedy was in the White House. That cast album debuted at No. 4 in 1961 on the mono album chart (not stereo, a sign of how long ago that was).
The album had the second-biggest sales debut for a cast album in the Nielsen era, with 30,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Oct. 1, according to Nielsen Music. Only the original Broadway cast recording of "Rent" did better by selling 43,000 during its bow in 1996.
Goldsberry, who was in the closing cast of "Rent," is popular on social media and said people send her their versions of her song "Satisfied." The submissions come from folks who old and young, black and white, theater fans and not. "There is no demographic that isn't moved by it and touched by it. It's a miracle to me," she said.
For all of its success, "Hamilton" didn't earn the single-largest sales week for a cast album in the Nielsen era. That goes to "The Book of Mormon," which debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 31 and roared up to No. 3 following the show's nine Tony Award wins. It also sold 61,000 copies in a single week in 2011, thanks to being priced $1.99 at the Amazon store.
Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits