If you've never seen "Hamilton," don't fret...you're actually not alone. While it has been an absolute phenomenon since its off-Broadway debut in 2015, the show, its music and its stars have been impossible to avoid ever since. EVERYBODY has at least heard of "Hamilton." And it seems like there aren't too many who haven't seen it.
I confess that not only had I not seen it - until now - but I had managed to avoid any spoilers over the years too. I always imagined I'd see "Hamilton," but I never thought it would be from the comfort of my own home, at least not for the first time. Now, "Hamilton" is being released July 3rd exclusively on Disney+, after the pandemic forced Disney to alter its plans of releasing it in movie theaters later this Fall.
If you're reading this review, you're probably either A), like me, a poor, unfortunate soul that has somehow never seen "Hamilton" and you're curious if this at-home version lives up to the hype, or B), you have already seen "Hamilton" in some way, shape or form, and you're checking to see if you can ever trust another review from me ever again.
Let me say this about "Hamilton": I've never entered into a film with such unbearably high expectations. And I've never left a film having felt more blown away.
In other words, believe the hype. Yes, it IS that good.
I do wonder what fans who have seen "Hamilton" live will think of how this version affects them. I suspect - like everything - there is nearly nothing that replaces the live experience, or watching a production with an audience. But there is something to be said about the Disney+ version, in how cinematic it feels despite it just being a filmed version of the stage play. Close-ups on faces that portray extra emotion. Angles all over the stage, including a birds-eye view as well as a few shots pointing out towards the audience. In fact, the camera work and video production on this version of "Hamilton" is on par with all the other elements on stage, from the choreography to the singing to the costume design. In other words, it's superb and dare I say adds to the effectiveness.
Of course, the real draw for longtime "Hamilton" fans is that the original cast is back. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Chris Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and the rest of the original ensemble set the bar high for anyone who follows this up by seeing "Hamilton" performed by others on stage (eventually, assuming we're allowed back to the theater at some point in our lives). Jonathan Groff too, as King George III, was a scene-stealer and definitely one of the highlights for me...I simply can't imagine watching any other actor embody the role.
There is a short introduction from LIn-Manuel Miranda himself, as well as from Thomas Kail, the director of the stage production who was also smartly tasked to direct this film version. All-in-all, with a one-minute intermission to boot, "Hamilton" comes in at just under three-hours, and you'd never know. I could have easily watched another several hours.
"Hamilton" received a record 16 Tony nominations, winning 11 including "Best Musical," and even won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2016. It's estimated to have grossed nearly a half-billion - with a "b" - dollars at the box office, with some tickets on Broadway having sold for nearly $1000 per ticket...a steal. While that's extraordinary, it has also been inaccessible to many who can't afford a ticket or didn't have the means to make it to the theater. Now on Disney+, "Hamilton" will reach more people than ever.
Miranda has described "Hamilton" as: "...a story about America, told by America now." More than that, it's essential viewing for Americans now, even more so than it was when it was originally released pre-Trump.
There's few movies that are hype-proof, where no amount of word-of-mouth will properly prepare you for the experience of watching it. "Hamilton" exceeds all expectations, and it's power transcends its medium...it doesn't really matter if you see it on Disney+, on stage or in a theater, just make sure you're in the room where it happens.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History, Musical.
Run Time: 2 hours 40 minutes.
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Chris Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs.
Directed by Thomas Kail ("Grease Live!", "Fosse/Verdon" mini-series).
"Hamilton" is available to stream on Disney+ on Friday, July 3rd, 2020.
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