When the movie “Hamilton” hits Disney + in the early hours of Friday, it will be more than just one more premiere of the streaming service. For many of the devoted fans of the hit series, whether they’ve watched a live performance or simply indulged in the endless audios of the best-selling supporting album of all time, it’s a moment they’ve been anticipating for years.
And yet, many others, perhaps even you, the person reading this piece right now, have no such personal interest in the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, which garnered a record 16 Tony nominations in 2016. And They have no idea why it is such a phenomenon. And I really don’t want to read more than one story to find the answer to this question: is “Hamilton” really worth it?
The short answer is yes.
With the original cast of Broadway in tow, it’s already worth celebrating that this filmed version of “Hamilton,” which set a record for the highest average ticket on Broadway, will always be accessible as part of a $ 7 monthly streaming subscription, ready for screening, and reevaluation, at any given time. The moment is particularly special as all “Hamilton” productions worldwide, along with countless theater venues, have been darkened to curb the spread of COVID-19.
But for those who need to be more convincing, there are multiple reasons why “Hamilton” gained all that enthusiasm in the five years or so since its off-Broadway debut. The plot, essentially the origin story of the United States of America, is nothing new; It covers well-known historical events: emerging victorious from the Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Treasury, and writing documents like the Federalist Papers, which are central to this country.
At the center of it all was Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the Caribbean and died at a relatively young age, compared to his contemporaries George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, all of whom are also characters in the show.
What is new is the way in which the writer and composer Miranda conceived the program as a “story about the United States then, as the United States tells it now.” The Founding Fathers are played by black and brown actors, communities that are not reflected often enough in American history or on Broadway stages.
And they perform songs that sound like the pop, hip-hop, and 21st century rap hits we love, songs that are also effective in scope and subtext. These musical numbers are simultaneously timely and timeless, talking about the events on stage and the events happening in today’s world.
“Hamilton” has won 11 Tonys, a Grammy, the Pulitzer Prize for drama and a litany of other awards. One reason for this is that it not only tells the story of these key historical figures, but also humanizes and universalizes them in a way that our textbooks never did.
You face that all-too-familiar existential crisis: the attempt to build something that lasts a lifetime, to make the most of your time on this earth with the skills you have and the opportunities before you. His ambition can be both a blessing and a curse, his livelihood a pawn in a political game, his potential at any time, even alone. All of this is changing and focused, as the characters experience love, friendship, jealousy, and loss, like the rest of us.
That’s just a lot to see when you first see it. Perhaps the most important thing all newcomers to “Hamilton” should know: to stop pushing to process absolutely everything right away is an impossible task. It is a sung show, which means that all the “lines” and dialogue are delivered in one song, a difficult listening for those who are not very used to seeing musicals. And this one is remarkably dense with its lyrics, with a particularly fast rap spanning 19 words in three seconds.
Also, there are quite a few characters, some of whom are played by actors who switch roles in the intermission: Daveed Diggs plays Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, Okieriete Onaodowan plays Hercules Mulligan and James Madison, Anthony Ramos plays John Laurens, and Philip Hamilton, and Jasmine Cephas Jones play Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds.
Watch “Hamilton” for the first time as you would see any other movie for the first time: to control the plot, delight in the show and experience the excitement. Since you’re streaming, you can press the pause button every time you need an extra minute to digest what you’ve seen or get clarification on what’s going on. The intermission of the film lasts only a minute, but feel free to extend it to the usual 15 of the live program, if necessary.
Then you can look at it again with the specificity of the narration in mind: the precision of the ensemble in performing such dynamic choreography, the unspoken poetry of lighting design, the commentary on the lyrics about women and people of color, then and now.
Jump to specific songs. Sing along with catchy choruses. Stop to gape at the shocking blows. How lucky we are to be alive at a time when the movie “Hamilton” will always be there, waiting for us to play it.
To read this note in English click here