“Hamilton" stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Jonathan Groff. Released on Disney+ on July 3, 2020, the film chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton.
The film is directed by Thomas Kail, who is known for directing Broadway productions and television shows like “2 Broke Girls” and “Fosse/Verdon”. It is a recording of Miranda’s 2015 Broadway musical of the same name, which is inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. This weekend is Independence Day, which means it’s time for us to once again celebrate our independence, crank out the fireworks, and explore some American history. Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you can’t learn some history, am I right? “Hamilton” is considered to be one of the best Broadway musicals of all time as it earned rave reviews, received numerous awards, and played to sold-out shows. With Lin-Manuel Miranda’s infectious music and a story that combines the old with the new and respects the importance of America, the musical has become an American treasure that everyone should experience for themselves, especially on Independence Day. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to wait until the Broadway theaters reopen to see it because Disney is releasing the live recording of the 2016 performance of “Hamilton” on its streaming service so that everyone can see it without wasting their money on some expensive Broadway tickets. It was originally set to hit theaters next fall, but due to the pandemic affecting the performing arts, Disney decided to just release it on Disney+ during this year's 4th of July weekend. I’m honestly glad that they made this decision. We get to celebrate the performing arts in our living room and celebrate the American nation. I call this a win-win. I’m one of the few people who have not seen “Hamilton” since it was first released, so this review will be my very first experience with the Broadway musical. With that said, let’s dive into some history.
Divided into two acts and filmed from the Richard Rodgers Theatre performance in June 2016, the story depicts the life and career of Alexander Hamilton (Miranda), an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis. Throughout the span of his life, he works as General George Washington’s (Jackson) aide-de-camp, marries Eliza Schuyler (Soo), becomes the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and engages in a duel with his friend turned rival Aaron Burr (Odom Jr.). What makes this musical unique compared to the other representations of American history is its perspective. The depiction of America in the past is told through the use of modern music that draws from certain genres like hip hop and pop and a diverse cast, making it accessible to…well, everyone. But do these things alone make a great musical? Honestly, they absolutely do. You can argue that the story in “Hamilton” isn’t 100% accurate to the history books, but when you look at the bigger picture, it’s actually a one-of-a-kind experience that brilliantly captures the spirit of Broadway and represents the rise and fall of the title character in its own way. From its relatable political themes to the show-stopping musical numbers, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is a music-driven and captivating drama that’s full of energy, pizzazz, and more importantly, heart. I was a bit concerned going into this one, considering the fact that the film is basically people singing or rapping for over two and a half hours. However, I was generally surprised to see how highly entertaining (and important) it was to watch history come alive from a different perspective. Sure, the runtime can be a bit problematic for those who aren’t into the performing arts, but the pacing and the music were suitable enough to keep things moving along. The entire cast of the film consists of Miranda and the original principal cast of the musical, and, unsurprisingly, they were all fantastic, especially Miranda, who performed his heart and soul out as the title character. Jonathan Groff as King George III has to be one of my favorite highlights of the film. Not just because of his musical numbers, but also because of his humorous and enjoyable delivery of his lines (or lyrics). The film’s music by Miranda is also my personal highlight. “Hamilton” is best described as either a story-driven concert or a song-driven historical drama, whichever one works for you. What could’ve been an off-putting and derivative storytelling tool turned out to be something more than that. Not only were the musical numbers filled with stellar lyrics, catchy music, and stunning choreography, but they also play an important role in representing the film’s events and the characters’ emotions through modern eyes. The result is a visual soundtrack that’ll get you to either dance along with its upbeat score or feel emotionally moved by its lyrics. From a Broadway perspective, the production design and the costumes were simplistic, yet well-crafted enough to depict America from the 1700s and the 1800s.
Overall, “Hamilton” is a joyous and heartfelt musical that respectfully celebrates both America then and America now. Thanks to its incredible cast, Miranda’s unforgettable music, its well-portrayed narrative, and Thomas Kail’s successful attempt to bring the musical to life for newcomers, the film marks another reason why you should subscribe to Disney+, other than to watch all of your favorite Disney classics. It would’ve been nice to see the musical in person, but with everything that’s going on right now, I guess this will have to do for now. For people who are unfamiliar with the musical and people who are fans of Broadway, it’s definitely worth checking out.
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