Seeing ‘Hamilton’ for the first time on Disney + in 2020 is joyful and depressing
Like someone who had never seen Hamilton in whatever form until yesterday, I admit the series lives up to the hype. Yes, there is an inevitable undercurrent of desperation watching something that in 2015 seemed to symbolize an ambitious future that no longer seems within reach. And, yes, there is a case for the casting of ‘not a white man’ actors to play the various Founding Fathers is both progressive and a biased form of whitewashing, particularly in an era when the white men who “told our story” Are under a long-awaited microscope. But as a singular entertainment, it’s a knockout even when viewed through a digital screen on my laptop. Hamilton, debuts on Disney
Nothing can capture the experience of seeing live theater in, well, live theater, but this filmed version of the stage production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical is a successful approximation. Kind of like the 3-D theatrical release of Miley Cyrus / Hanna Montana: The Best of Both Worlds concert film in 2009, it almost qualifies as a mitzvah on the part of the House of the Mouse, allowing audiences of all ages a chance to experience something almost equal to the live performance without having to spend over hundreds of dollars. dollars for tickets. Like the musical concert film, was meant to be seen in a theater, so its untimely arrival on Disney’s streaming service seems oddly appropriate as a bitterly ironic Independence Day weekend giveaway to a a time when America’s exceptional exceptionalism keeps us all inside.
The film is directed by Thomas Kail, whose Grease Live! blew me away in terms of being a film that was mostly shot, edited, and screened in real time (and I don’t even like Fat). It is basically two live performances filmed with multiple covers in 2016 with the original cast, as well as 13 of the songs filmed in an empty theater to allow Steadicam, a crane and cameras mounted on a cart to move among. players. The result, edited by Jonah Moran, gives you the best seat in the house for every moment of the 162-minute show (including intro and credits). It never tries to be anything other than a filmed version of the show, but it’s an ideal presentation of the show, the best thing to be there.
Watching Hamilton for the first time, i was struck by how many of the show’s lyrics (“who tells your story”, “immigrants: we do the job”, “shoot your shot”, etc.) had already entered our vernacular language of pop culture. For those who don’t know, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father credited with creating the nation’s financial system and becoming our first Secretary of the Treasury, which is part of why that’s his face on the banknote of $ 10. The show tells the story of America’s founding, with the War of Independence taking the first act and the bumpy beginnings of a new nation filling out the second act, through the eyes of its working immigrant protagonist. until becoming George. Washington’s right-hand man.
The (very successful) thing is that the almost entirely sung show is made up of a variety of more modern musical styles, (hip hop, pop and soul) mixed with traditional performance tunes. It is also, with the exception of King George III prescient amusement from Jonathon Groff, compromises of non-white actors playing roles like Hamilton (Miranda), Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and George Washington (Christopher Jackson). , in a sort of “America then, interpreted by America now” hook. Regardless of the symbolism at play, it’s a chance for a number of ridiculously talented actors to play the kinds of roles they would otherwise have been denied for reasons of “historical precision.” Oh, and little detail, it’s also great pop entertainment, even if separated from its broader socio-political implications.
The show begins with an introductory rapid-fire number detailing the origins of its protagonist and barely takes a breath for 2.5 hours. Pacé like that infamous Impossible mission trailer, I was exhausted just watching the show, can’t imagine the constant flow of caffeine needed to run this damn thing. It’s almost too fast, and I can’t wait for a rewatch on Disney + with subtitles. From the inventiveness of the lyrics, the subtle (and not-so-subtle) way he uses his unconventional musical styles to breathe life and emotion into an otherwise traditional Broadway show, and the sheer staging exhibited via production design. by David Korins, all about Hamilton is at the service of itself, which is why it functions as an emotional melodrama and an exciting musical show to live up to the hype.
Miranda is, of course, a dynamite performer and relentless talent. Odom Jr. is formidable as Aaron Burr, and the show refuses to portray him as a villain as his friend’s career far surpasses his own, creating a sort of doomed rivalry that plays out as Amadeus. Diggs’ supporting tricks as Marquis de Layfayette (first act) and Thomas Jefferson (second act) are a dose of adrenaline. That he looks like a young Mr. Glass from Unbreakable is both my own silly observation and a telltale sign of how these “Founding Fathers” became a pop culture myth. Jackson’s towering George Washington offers authority and dignity as the show claims Washington’s greatest legacy has been to voluntarily step down from the presidency to ensure America’s first power transition is orderly and peaceful.
I don’t know how many Hamilton is historical, but A) it’s not a documentary and B) I don’t use it to cheat on a school assignment. The series falters towards the end, perhaps inevitably, as the play attempts to create meaning, emotion, and emotional gravity for what turns out to be a stupid and unnecessary death, with just two nuances removed from a winner. of the Darwin Awards. This isn’t necessarily the show’s fault, as Hamilton’s ultimate fate is one of the best-known things in his life, but it’s a must-see narrative trap that comes from the centering of this specific historical figure. If anything, the need to be ambitious to the end negates what should be a fairly conventional “downfall” for our protagonist, especially when his actions start to affect those close to him.
As a filmed production, Hamilton is a treasured historical document, a time capsule representation of an iconic stage performance that at least offers vivid clues as to the impact of the performance in a live theater. Hamilton the show generally lives up to the hype, though circumstances since its inception make its optimism and idealistic symbolism almost tragically naive. This is not a review, because it is not ZootopiaBlame it on Disney’s toon becoming a prophecy instead of a warning. Its inclusion in Disney’s entertainment empire, one that has (like Netflix