Preceding 5 years of hype from the masses, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was finally viewed in full online. Disney sealed the deal for the streaming rights for $75 million and planned to release the film theatrically in October 2021. However, given the global shut down of film productions and movie theater operation hours, the studio teamed with the creator to deliver it much, much earlier. This year, the Fourth of July brings with it the single most celebrated Broadway musical in the last decade. It’s the story for the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton and embraces the retelling of true events surrounding the Revolutionary War and the subsequent American experiment. With no less than four Tony Award-winning actors a part of the original broadway cast, the pressure to perform on camera motivates the performers to deliver. However, the stellar performances are just one of a bevy of reasons Hamilton on Disney+ lives up to the hype.
Background: I discovered Hamilton in the fall of 2015. The first time I listened to the original cast recording followed some heavy times for me personally. The tragedy weaved within the lyrics provided a cushion. Thereafter, I developed the typical symptoms of a “stan.” I purchased books and created gifs from bootlegs and wrote essays about it in my Media Criticism courses. In the process, I got familiar with the story’s unique background as well as the storytellers behind it.
Following incredible success with his Broadway smash In The Heights, Miranda exhibited the same “stan” behaviors after picking up Rob Chernow’s 2004 #1 New York Times bestseller Alexander Hamilton. The creator spent a decade researching the American founding fathers and mixing their personalities with hip hop influences to create a wholly new historical lexicon. For the first time, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. compare to James Madison and George Jefferson. From writing the book, lyrics, and music of Hamilton, Miranda retells the story of and sparked new interest in the statesman. In 2015, the Treasury Secretary revealed that the $10 dollar bill featuring Hamilton would be replaced by an undecided woman in 2020. However, this decision was reversed in 2016 due to the surging popularity of Hamilton.
However, the existence of the musical itself creates new opportunities never seen for Broadway actors and actresses of color. The decision to cast non-white performers as the founding fathers create the telling of America then told by America now. Casting Black and Latino actors provide intricate, starring roles for people of color. Notable castings include Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr. The impact of this show’s success moves with the actors that may no longer be overlooked due to the color of their skin.
“Aaron Burr is arguably the best role for a male actor of color in the musical theater canon. Ever. You get to show all your colors. Nobody asks us to do that.” Leslie Odom, Jr exhibits trepidation as Vice President Aaron Burr in a heartbreaking manner that carries his character’s success. The film’s close-ups provide a new opportunity to connect with the performer as they connect with the character. Stage work requires stepping into the boots of a different person six nights a week, twice on Saturdays and Sundays. Richards Rogers Theatre holds roughly 1300 people and most nights play to a soldout crowd. The camerawork in the Hamilton movie is terrific in that it puts the viewer on stage with the cast. Something theatergoers can not claim to have experienced before. Moreover, the film gives longtime fans the chance to soak the story on for the first time again.
However, the film gives those unfamiliar with the music plenty of time to get on-board. Unlike musicals that have come before and after, the show features little dialogue. Instead, the story expands through quick-wit and lyricism set to modern hip hop beats. With throwbacks to rap legends like Grandmaster Flash and Big Pun throughout, the musical connects two distinct periods of time. Both the creation of America and the flourishing of hip hop are on full display. What can feel bloated at times is designed to give each character the chance to express their individual goals.
The balance between the founding father’s personal struggles and political positioning is difficult to maintain. Despite its almost three-hour runtime, Hamilton attempts to cram so much of the dawning of America in its Second Act. Additionally, the family life of Hamilton explores the web of lies he spins to accomplish his goals. The story circles back to the idea of present satisfaction versus leaving a legacy. With this in mind, the rapid-fire storytelling and overstuffed narrative cannot complicate Hamilton‘s legacy. Its place in the musical theater canon is secure and everlasting.
Hamilton launched the careers of the cast and crew as everyone from Daveed Diggs to director Thomas Kail has been able to maneuver new and exciting projects stemming from their involvement with the musical. Future generations will continue to turn to this show as they fall in love with Broadway and continue to extend its reach.
What rating would you give the Hamilton film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+. The musical stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Daveed Diggs.
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