Just like Phantom of the Opera captivated audiences back in the late 80s, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has become the biggest and most influential musical of our generation.
The 11-time-Tony-Award, GRAMMY Award-, Olivier Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning stage musical has been on every theatre enthusiast, critic and even non-musical lovers’ lips since its Broadway debut back in 2015. It’s been one of the hardest musical productions to nab tickets for, and stole the hearts of thousands of Londoners when it arrived on the West End back in 2017.
Tickets sold quicker than you could sing the infectious, ‘my name is Alexander Hamilton’ line, so when news broke back in May that a filmed version of the adored Broadway original production show was set to be released on Disney’s new streaming site a year earlier than anticipated; fans lost absolutely their sh*t.
If you’ve been missing your slice of theatrical fun during lockdown, or simply can’t endure another badly filmed musical that’s been half heartedly uploaded onto YouTube, Disney+ will elevate your expectations. Hamilton could have been recorded and uploaded in a similar fashion, but my goodness, did the filmic show blow away any queries or apprehensions I had going into the two hour 40 minute epic.
The Disney+ production was filmed in New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre and sees the original cast take centre stage over three nights in 2016. Having closed my blinds to the blaring sun, switched the surrounding lights off and settled in for the production, I was immediately thrusted into the theatrical experience. On the ‘overhead’ speaker, guests are told to turn off their phones and become fully immersed in the theatrics, and that’s so easily done thanks to the impressive use of “live capture” technology. This basically means it’s been created in a way that combines tv, theatre and film techniques to produce one breathtaking cinematic experience. And, in all honesty, it worked wonders.
Often the beauty of theatre is how it can captivate audiences, in a unique, fleeting way, and this film has managed to incorporate the elements in a really special way. Filming with the original cast, with Lin-Manuel Miranda joyfully playing Alexander Hamilton himself, we see the Broadway performance in its prime. It allows anybody from across the globe to tune in and become engulfed by the piece of history that’s being told and presented to us, the audience, providing they have Disney+ of course… And, it’s said you can’t tune into it on the free trial either which is a little cheeky, but snatching up a Broadway production for just £5.99 is a damn good steal.
If you don’t already know, Hamilton follows the narrative of the American revolution and the introduction of the US bank system. Every word is sung in a fun, rhythmic way, incorporating a mix of genres including hip hop, R&B, pop and soul. A far cry from your usual The Sound of Music soundtrack.
But despite retelling the story of the American revolution, we see it from the perspective of one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who (spoiler alert) is betrayed by his first friend and last enemy, Aaron Burr. But, again, despite the rather bleak ending, we are shown just how much energy, hope and optimism the revolution prevailed.
It’s said that his story is often left out. We follow his story as a 19-year-old orphan who has nothing but an inquisitive mind and a larger than life personality. We see him work his way into the founding fathers crew, marrying the love of his life, having a child, battling on the front line of the revolution, becoming a lawyer and becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury during George Washington’s administration. Throughout this timeline, however, we see a consistent battle between him and Aaron Burr. At the beginning, Burr is his well-educated mentor figure who tells him to ‘talk less, smile more’, and we soon see his downward spiral as Hamilton proceeds on the upward trajectory. These roles once again reverse and we eventually see Hamilton lost, alone and on the edge of his life. It’s the classic friend versus enemy showdown throughout the narrative, but at different points in the story you can’t help but feel sorry for both counterparts. They both want more than anything to become a ‘somebody’ but are unable to see that they could easily work together and become somebody together before it’s too late.
The musical flicks from song to song, but unlike your typical musical, every song feels as big as the next. That’s probably why the soundtrack is blasted on every road trip, at every party and would fit in almost every setting possible. We see Hamilton thrusted into hip hop battles against Thomas Jefferson, played by Daveed Diggs. As the characters look out to the audience, despite not being in the theatre, you can’t help but feel part of the epic production, thanks to its larger than life energy provoked throughout.
This energy is emphasised once more during the ‘intermission’. Sitting through almost three hours of constant singing is near impossible but the fun, one minute intermission gave me time to frantically run to grab a drink and fill up my popcorn bowl. Experiencing the production at home meant I didn’t have to awkwardly stand up to let people tiptoe past my seat or pay over the odds for a tiny pot of rich ice cream (although it did make me miss it a little).
Miranda’s larger than life production of Hamilton is a masterpiece and deserves all of the recognition it deserves. We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the theatre production transformed into a Hollywood hit in the near future. And, you can guarantee we’ll be there, front row seat, engulfing the beautiful performances once more.
Catch Hamilton on Disney+ now at: www.disneyplus.com