The award-winning stage musical, Hamilton, about the Founding Father hits Disney+ on Friday just in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend.
“I am not throwing away my shot!” “No one else was in the room where it happened.” “Talk less, smile more.”
Unless you’ve been living in cave during the past several years, you’re probably familiar with Lin-Manuel Miranda. If In the Heights didn’t make him a household name, Hamilton certainly did. This is the first of two times that the multi-hyphenate will grace the small screens this summer. The other appearance will come by way of We Are Freestyle Love Supreme, available via Hulu in mid-July.
This particular version of Hamilton captures the stage musical as it was during the summer of 2016. Given the musical’s popularity, a filmed version was a no-brainer. It was a matter of if, not when. It’s a filmed version, not an adaptation shot on location and soundstages like traditional Hollywood musicals. Because we’re watching the stage show, we also get the audience response for those performances that were filmed with an audience, be it claps or laughter. And yet, it’s exactly what we need this summer. We’ve been in quarantine for months–we deserve this!
What helps to keep the musical’s spirit is that the film isn’t being edited down. Lin-Manuel Miranda may have given two fucks to make it family-friendly. The real work, however, comes in the editing room with finding the shots that keep the spirit alive. It would be unfair if the film didn’t show off the fabulous production design and spectacular choreography. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem. The first thing one notices upon entering the room where it happens is the production design. You could make an argument about it being one of the great wonders of the world.
The musical is based on Ron Chernow’s book, Alexander Hamilton. Miranda pairs it down to the greatest hits and then some. Add in a nice blend of hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and traditional Broadway on top and the result is a hell of a show. There are so many fan favorite tunes that it’s certainly hard to pick a favorite. Of course, this is a great problem to have if you’re an award-winning musical.
Hamilton was one of the Founding Fathers. He was there at the birth of the United States. George Washington (Christopher Jackson) served as a mentor to the younger Hamilton. Politically speaking, Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) was a rival to Hamilton especially in the Washington cabinet. To tell Hamilton’s story and not include the tragedies would be a disservice. You cannot tell Hamilton’s story without including Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.). After all, Burr’s the man who shot and killed him in 1804.
Daveed Diggs shines while pulling double-duty as both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Diggs plays both characters so differently and also adds a touch of light humor. He’s not the only one. Jonathan Groff brings just the right amount of humor as the hated King George. Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry get the most screen time as far as the three Schuyler sisters are concerned. If the musical were to be completely authentic in casting, everybody would be white. The fact that this cast is diverse speaks to the current makeup of America. In a perfect world, the makeup of the Founding Fathers would also be diverse in real life. Instead, they’re all white men.
The thing that’s so amazing about watching Hamilton on the small screen is that it gives everyone the best seat in the house. The shot selections and choreography only serve to reinforce this belief. I first saw the show in Chicago in 2017 so I didn’t get to experience Hamilton with the original Broadway cast. But for those who do get to experience Hamilton for the first time with the original cast, you really couldn’t have a better experience through watching the musical on Disney+.
DIRECTOR: Thomas Kail
BOOK, MUSIC, AND LYRICS: Lin-Manuel Miranda
CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo