In this image released by PBS, from left, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda perform in the musical, "Hamilton." The documentary “Hamilton's America” debuts on PBS on Friday as part of its Great Performances series, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the musical’s creation and putting it in historical context. (Joan Marcus/PBS via AP)

“Hamilton’s America” shines poignant light on Broadway hit

I first discovered “Hamilton: the Musical” the same way most non-New Yorkers did: by listening to the cast album when it was released last fall.

And then I listened again, and again.

Nearly a year later, “Hamilton” has changed my life. I listen to the cast album several times through a day, not to mention all the article reading and Twitter stalking. If you have a question about the show or the cast, I more than likely know the answer.

So yeah, the debut of this documentary has been circled on my calendar for months. (PBS 9 p.m. tonight folks)

Hamilton’s America photo: © Joan Marcus Also Starring Alexander HamiltonLin-Manuel Miranda George Washington Christopher Jackson Aaron Burr Leslie Odom Jr. Eliza Hamilton Phillipa Soo King George Jonathan Groff John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton Anthony Ramos Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson Daveed Diggs Angelica Schuyler Renee Elise Goldsberry Production Credits: Thomas Kail (Director) Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) David Korins (Scenic Design) Paul Tazewell (Costume Design) Howell Binkley (Lighting Design) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda

The cast of “Hamilton.”photo: © Joan Marcus

I haven’t been able to see the show live, yet, but watching the the PBS Great Performances documentary “Hamilton’s America” comes close to what I imagine that might feel like. “Hamilton” almost doesn’t need any more publicity; it’s had a reach far beyond normal theater audiences.

For you guys who slept through history class and like the last year of headlines, “Hamilton’s America” gives you background and context for history and the musical. And tells you more about this dude Alexander Hamilton, our first treasury secretary. He did a lot of stuff in his 49 years of life, guys.

So has Miranda. He’s won multiple Tony awards for his work writing and starring in “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” which won a near-record breaking 11 Tony awards in June. Oh and he also won a Pulitzer Prize. No biggie.

This documentary makes you realize Miranda possesses some of that same genius he attributes to Alexander Hamilton. Here, you get to see him working on his laptop in Aaron Burr’s actual bedroom, muttering lyrics under his breath and tapping his  hand on his thigh. Maybe it’s staged, but his focus and dedication are not. I feel like I was watching something real.

The documentary takes you from the first beginnings of writing Hamilton all the way through its Broadway debut and award-show and White House success. Much of the footage has already gone viral, such as his 2009 White House performance of the title song.

Here’s some other stuff you get to see:

  • Miranda’s ‘cabinet’ working on writing the show

    President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the PBS documentary "Hamilton's America" in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

    President Barack Obama speaks to Lin-Manuel Miranda in the PBS Documentary.

  • precious on-stage and behind-the-scenes snapshots in HD quality instead of Snapchat
  • nearly 20 minutes of footage from the actual show!!
  • Key cast members visiting historical sites tied to their characters
  • commentary from current political and popular figures such as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner, as well as composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and of course, Jimmy Fallon

There’s lots of laughing in the documentary, but lots of emotional moments too, like when Christopher Jackson — a tall African American guy who plays General Washington — visits Mount Vernon, his eyes filled with emotion and thought as he stands in the building that housed Washington’s slaves.

Watching the documentary for me was almost like watching a family video. It’s not super fresh material, but it’s a well-made package that packs an emotional punch, and a perfect description of all that is “Hamilton.”

**Unraveling this article was difficult. I have a lot of emotions about “Hamilton.” Click here to read the longer print article. And tweet me when you watch it tonight — I’ll be watching too!*

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