I was so excited when Disney announced that it would be releasing Hamilton in the theaters next year and even more excited when they decided to move the release this year to Disney+. I have been wanting to watch this show, but haven't been able to yet. So, I cannot review Hamilton as somebody who has seen the show, but somebody who's listened to the soundtrack countless times, watched many a YouTube video of the show as well as seen Hamiton's America on PBS. In other words, I am a total fan without seeing the show.
But, thanks to Disney+, my dreams came true and I have to say that I was not disappointed one bit. Unlike other film adaptations of Broadway musicals, this is a filmed version of the stage show. The show was shot over a few nights in 2016 at the height of the show's popularity and with the original cast still in tow.
Hamilton tells the story of, obviously, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda who is also the show creator), but, more so, it re-imagines the birth of a nation with a truly diverse cast playing the forefathers. It's an amazing timely story that tells how immigrants really were at the heart of the creation of the United States. As Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) and Hamilton say gleefully together, "Immigrants, we get the job done!" And, as Manuel has said in countless interviews, its about how the sins of the fathers still exist today whether it be systemic racism or gun control.
It can only be said that this show has revolutionized the American musical by bringing in rap and hip-hop. Through young people comes revolution and, in this day when we need revolution, why not appeal to them through the music they listen to? And, as somebody who is not so young, I could still appreciate it. I found myself bobbing my head to "The Room Where It Happens" and "My Shot" as well as completely belting along to the Schuyler Sisters singing "Helpless" and "Satisfied." That's actually the best part of watching it at home. You can sing to your heart's content without somebody glaring at you.
The cast is absolutely amazing. There is no truer talent that Lin-Manuel Miranda for sure. But the rest of the cast is bar none. Leslie Odom, Jr. as Hamilton's nemesis Aaron Burr exudes the confidence needed for his role. Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza Hamilton, has such emotional conviction. Renée Elise Goldsberry, who I realized I knew after years of watching One Life To Live, is absolutely amazing as Angelica Schuyler. And not to mention the joyous performances of Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Chris Jackson, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones. I feel blessed to have gotten to see them perform after all these years of only listening to them.
Director Thomas Kail really gets the most out of all of them. And the filmed version only gave him a new playground to play with different shots. By deciding to go in for tight close ups, it made the experience very personal. You can see the expressions on their faces and the depth of emotion they have to convey. There are also shots like when Groff's King George comes on to stage from behind that give us a different perspective than what we would have seen in a stage production making it all the more special.
As someone who does not have a large disposable income, I am glad that Disney has brought Hamilton to audiences everywhere. Miranda has always been one that has wanted to democratize the experience of the show and bringing the show to a wider audience. And, in this day and age of COVID-19, we need this entertainment to make us laugh, and cry and think.
Also worth watching is a 33 minute roundtable under the "Extras" section. The Undefeated Presents Hamilton In-Depth hosted by Kelley Carter gathers together the nine main cast members as well as Kail. It's full of great anecdotes from the cast about the impact of the show especially how it pertains to today's revolution around Black Lives Matter. It's wonderful to see the cast interact with each other and you can tell they really enjoy each other which makes it even better.