Arnold fail to conquer Quebec (“Gee,
Maine’s a Big Place to Walk Through”),
but Burr is rewarded with a job on General Washington’s staff—and promptly
quits (“Bad Decisions”). Hamilton later
takes the position and rides it to power.
Burr is given command of a regiment,
but after losing the Battle of Monmouth,
he resigns his commission to study law.
He moves to New York, marries, and has
a daughter, Theodosia. Cue sad music,
foreshadowing the death of Burr’s wife
when Theodosia is 10.
Burr rises quickly: assemblyman, U.S.
senator, and in 1800, Thomas Jefferson’s
vice presidential pick. Due to an oddity
in the Constitution, Burr almost becomes
president (“It Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda
Been Me!”) until Hamilton swings the vote
against him. Bumped from the ticket in
1804, Burr runs for governor of New York
but—again—Hamilton stands in his way.
Peeved at a remark Hamilton probably
didn’t make, Burr challenges his rival to a
duel in Weehawken. Shots are exchanged,
and Hamilton is mortally wounded (“
Reprise: Bad Decisions”). Facing criminal
prosecution, Burr flees to Theodosia’s
house in South Carolina. Curtain.
BURR IS APPROACHED BY conspirators
to be president if New England secedes
from the Union; when they find out about
Hamilton’s death, the plan collapses.
Instead, Burr begins raising an army to
invade the Spanish territories (“I Hear It’s
Nice in Texas This Time of Year”). Burr is
arrested, stands trial for treason (“Reprise:
Bad Decisions”), and is acquitted. Still, he
can’t overcome this latest disgrace.
In New York, Burr awaits a visit from
Theodosia, but her ship is lost at sea
(“Pirates, the Brits, or Bad Luck?”). Burr
is devastated. Running out of money, he
marries Eliza Jumel, a wealthy former
madam, but they soon separate (“
Reprise: Woe Is I”). Burr suffers a stroke,
moves into a hotel on Staten Island
(“Exile”) and dies in 1836, remembered
as the man who slew Alexander Hamilton (“If Only I Had Known”).
On second thought, no one’s going to
believe this. Let’s make it an opera instead. Those things never make sense. ■
James Nevius’s most recent book,
Footprints in New York (Lyons Press, 2014),
examines the shootout in Weehawken.
IT’S THE TALK OF THE theater world:
Hamilton: An American Musical.
I say, “ugh.”
Sure, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop
biography is a Broadway blockbuster—but
what about New Jersey’s own Aaron Burr?
Where’s Burr: The Musical While Hamil-
ton’s rags-to-riches biography is compel-
ling—and many of the key moments in his
life took place in New Jersey—I’d argue
that Burr’s story is even better, with plot
twists that would defy the imagination of
the most inventive playwright.
THE CURTAIN RISES in Elizabeth, the
New Jersey city where Aaron and his
sister, Sally, are newly orphaned. People
adore orphans in musicals (see Oliver!
or Annie—or Hamilton, for that matter).
The young Burr begins to sing “Woe Is
I” until the servants enter to serve tea
and remind him the Burr family is rich.
Flash-forward to the precocious
Burr, now 13, on his first day at the College of New Jersey, the school founded
by his father and later renamed Princeton University (song: “My Daddy Was
President of Princeton, Huzzah”).
1775: Burr signs up for the Revolution. He and future traitor Benedict
Alexander Hamilton’s slayer died in disgrace.
The latest insult: He never got a musical.
By James Nevius