By Tova Wax
One must be living in an alternate universe if they haven’t yet heard of the phenomenon that is “Hamilton.” The show debuted on Broadway in 2015 and immediately skyrocketed in popularity, broke records, won Tony and Grammy awards, and became a worldwide sensation. Due to its success, ticket prices quickly rose to several hundred dollars per seat, and theatres filled months in advance. However, those who were unfortunately unable to see the show live on the Broadway stage during its (currently paused for coronavirus) run at the Richards Rogers Theatre now have the opportunity to experience all of “Hamilton”’s magic and glory in the comforts of their own homes on Disney Plus.
The film version of “Hamilton” premiered on July 3 and quickly became one of the most-watched movies on the Disney Plus platform. The movie, directed by Thomas Kail, has made viewers feel like they “were in the room where it happened” and the “Hamilton” cast most definitely “did not throw away their shot,” to quote its famous song lyrics.
“Hamilton” tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and of our U.S Founding Fathers. Through its brilliant musical score, viewers learn about “Hamilton”’s life, from growing up an orphan in the Caribbean to becoming the Secretary of the United States Treasury Department.
“Hamiton” was filmed in 2016 with the original cast of the show, whose chemistry is apparent to viewers even through the television screen. Although the show has been seen all over the world with many different casts, there is nothing quite like seeing the original cast perform material that seems to have been specifically written for them.
The cast, predominantly Black and Latinx, sends strong messages of the American Ideal and dream of equality throughout the hip-hop musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), “Hamilton”’s playwright, composer, and lyricist, wrote the show with virtually no space for dialogue, as the musical tells its story through song and rapping. Regarding casting “Hamilton” with people of color, Miranda told The New York Times, “This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance—our story should look the way our country looks. Then we found the best people to embody these parts, I think it’s a very powerful statement without having to be a statement.”
Additionally, Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) spoke to The New York Times about how important and special it was to him that the cast was one of color and diversity and how the show would have meant the world to him if he would have seen it as a young kid.
From a musical standpoint, the show is pure genius. Every song transition is flawless, interwoven seamlessly with the story being told. Miranda’s incredibly crafted lyrics and rhymes, together with hip-hop and operatic influences, lend to a dynamic and gripping historically-based piece that engages the viewer from start to finish and leaves them wanting more.
Seeing “Hamilton” on film bridged the gap I didn’t know I had, as I already knew and adored the soundtrack. The film allowed me to follow the lyrics more accurately through the closed captioning provided, something I would not have had if I had seen it live. Seeing Jonathan Groff as King George III sing “You’ll Be Back”, spit flying from his lips as he maniacally enunciated the lyrics, added a new dimension to his portrayal of the character and performance of the song. Angelica’s heartfelt performance of “Satisfied” evoked my deep emotions as I watched an array of her emotions, from pain to longing, across her face. I had an up-close view of all the performers, their struggle, triumph, pain, longing, and so much more that I would not have otherwise seen in the “cheap seats” (were I among the lucky to snag tickets). While there is no doubt I have always wanted to see the show on Broadway, seeing Disney Plus’s film version really blew me away and, in fact, has made me want to see the live show even more!