Americans and the British share a special bond, even if a certain POTUS doesn’t feel like making a journey to London just now. The two share many pieces of popular culture, with the Brits delivering entertainment juggernauts from the Beatles to Shakespeare to Downton Abbey for American ravishment while Americans send culture across the pond ranging from films and theatre to the forerunner of the British Invasion — American blues music and jazz. But some things are always lost in translation, even with in cultures with so many shared touchstones. That’s why for the London run of his seminal ‘Hamilton’ musical, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda had to make three small changes.
Miranda changed Weehawken, a city in New Jersey, to “New Jersey” itself in one lyric — Brits thought it was “we hawkin” he wrote (see below). Brits also weren’t likely to get the significance of the Potomac River that borders Washington DC, so Miranda knocked out a lyrical reference to the Potomac for the London show. (Geographical references rarely travel well.) And perhaps most significantly, Miranda dropped a reference to John Adams, one of the most famous of founding fathers, the first US Vice President, the nation’s second president, and father of America’s sixth president (that’s John Quincy Adams). Even with a resume like that, Adams’s name was expected to draw blanks from British theatregoers, and so Miranda changed the lyric that contained Adams’s proper name to one that instead referenced the vice president, the job Adams held at the time. It’s a bit like if the Beatles had changed the lyrics to “Penny Lane” from “and the banker never wears a mac” to “and the banker never wears a raincoat.”
That’s 2. 🇬🇧 thought it was “we hawkin’.” https://t.co/MeNA6TM6QH
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) January 9, 2018