Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton on opening night.

Photographer: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

'Hamilton' Shows the Power of Public-Private Partnership

Mohamed A. El-Erian is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is the chief economic adviser at Allianz SE and chairman of the President’s Global Development Council, and he was chief executive and co-chief investment officer of Pimco. His books include “The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability and Avoiding the Next Collapse.”
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"Hamilton," the groundbreaking musical inspired by Ron Chernow's biography of one of America’s Founding Fathers, has been taking Broadway by storm. It has been lauded for its superb writing, acting and choreography, and has upended the conventional wisdom on Broadway and will help redefine the staging of musicals.

The production's success also provides another example of a public-private partnership that could help revolutionize an established model.

If you've somehow missed all the hype, the musical explores the life of Alexander Hamilton -- from his modest beginnings as a poor, orphaned immigrant, his role in the American Revolution, to his longer-term association with George Washington, the design of the first federal financial and budgetary system, and his political and personal downfalls. In a stunningly effective and imaginative twist, the story is told through rap and hip hop music, along with a bit of jazz and pop, and is brought to life through song and dance.

The musical features a remarkably diverse cast, though the roles are not apportioned according to race. Key parts such as Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette and Washington all are played by black and Hispanic actors. The genre-advancing production was written by the extremely talented Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays the lead role and also composed the music.

What is less well-known, however, is that "Hamilton" is the product of an inspiring public-private partnership. The musical was first staged at the nonprofit Public Theater in New York, which is known for its free summer productions of Shakespeare in the Park, and is devoted to "the classics, musicals, contemporary, and experimental in equal measures." 

The Public provided Miranda with the support and space for experimental evolution, together with funding, feedback and encouragement to create "Hamilton" over several years. It had its first very successful run at the theater in January 2015, before moving to a sold-out run on Broadway. The play has been featured in articles and on television, and celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, politics and sports have raved about it. Miranda performed one of its songs at the White House for President Barack Obama, who also has attended the musical at least twice. The New Yorker has argued that presidential candidates should learn from the musical's message and insights.

The success of "Hamilton" should end the argument about whether venture innovation and segment disruption are the sole domain of the private sector. The musical powerfully demonstrates the effectiveness of the type of well-designed public-private partnerships that also have proved successful in education, health, technology and other sectors. And it offers a road map for private sector ventures and the public sector to work together, including by leveraging resources and space for experimentation, innovation and beneficial disruption.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Mohamed A. El-Erian at melerian@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net