High School Students Put on Their Own Show at Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’

PHOTO: Actor Leslie Odom, Jr. and actor, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda perform on stage during "Hamilton" GRAMMY performance for The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Richard Rodgers Theater, Feb.15, 2016, in New York.PlayTheo Wargo/Getty Images
WATCH High School Students Put on Their Own Show at Broadway's 'Hamilton'

“Hamilton” is the hardest show in America to get into – unless you’re one of the high school students in the Hamilton Education Program.

Twenty thousand students from New York City’s public schools are being welcomed to experience the hip-hop Broadway musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton -- and they’re getting an opportunity to perform their own original raps for the show’s cast.

Students who saw the show and performed on Wednesday came from several city schools, including Park East High School, Facing History High School, Fordham High School for the Arts and Curtis High School. All the students saw the show after studying a Hamilton-based curriculum, and then performed their own history-inspired raps at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the Pulitzer Prize-winning show, is their biggest fan.

“I’m losing my mind. This particular crop...that we saw today, I mean, I wanted to buy half those singles,” he told “GMA”’s Lara Spencer.

For the students, “Hamilton” is the jumping-off point to engage the students with history on a deeper level, Miranda said.

The show resonated with the students.

“I connected with his ambition...he knew what he was going to do and he fought for it and I think that I'm that type of person,” one student said of Hamilton, adding, “I know what I want to do and I'm going to fight for it. I feel that's why I connected the most with him.”

The partnership between the show and the school is funded by a $1.46 million grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Through the grant, the students in the program are allowed to see “Hamilton” for just $10 each at Wednesday matinees.

Because of the preparation that the students receive through the program, “when they get here, they’re ready,” Miranda said. “They’re ready to take in all of the experience. They’re the best audiences we get.”

Miranda knows something about good audiences. The “Hamilton” soundtrack has topped the charts. A book based on the show’s creation is a bestseller, and every night the audience is filled with famous faces.

When Spencer asked Miranda what it was like for him to look out from the stage into the audience and see famous faces – including President Barack Obama – he replied that it was thrilling.

“And sometimes, you look out. And ‘hey, Steven Spielberg, I see you on the aisle.’ All I wanted to do was be Steven Spielberg, when I was a kid. I just thought, ‘Okay. Steven Spielberg's watching me. I guess I'm in a Steven Spielberg movie in my own mind for the next two hours and forty-five minutes,’" he said. “It was one of the best shows I ever did, 'cause I was trying to be worthy of the audience that I had. And I kind of feel that way every night.”

Miranda is making musical theater history. In addition to the Pulitzer, the show has won a Grammy Award and earned a record 16 Tony Awards nominations.

“I didn’t know that was a thing that was possible,” Miranda said of the number of Tony nods. “It’s been really overwhelming.”

He added that it takes “a lot of people to put on a show, adding, “for everyone and their departments to be recognized is a validation of our work.”

The show is inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. As he read the book, Miranda thought the hip-hop connection seemed obvious.

"I immediately went to Google, once I finished the second chapter of the book, and said, 'Someone's done this. Someone's has to have done this,'" he said.

Miranda likened Hamilton and George Washington to rappers Dr. Dre and Eminem.

“(Washington) is the guy who signs him and gives him a life in this world,” he said. “Take away the cultural specificity of the story, and it's a hip-hop story. It's someone who writes about their struggle and thus transcends it. And that's what all my favorite hip-hop artists have done.