By Mr. Will Wong
This Pandemic hasn’t been easy, but Disney+ have found a way to make it all a bit more bearable, expediting the release the Film version of HAMILTON’s Original Broadway Production from October 2021 to a timely July 4th weekend. Considering that theatre audiences around the world won’t be able to see the stage production of this global phenomenon till at least 2021, this is the next best thing. This Film is a combination of some re-filmed footage, plus three performances recorded at Richard Rodgers Theatre in June 2016. We are lucky to get to see a vast majority of the original Cast in their roles including mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda in the leading role.
Split into two sections with an intermission over 160 minutes, Director Thomas Kail (Grease: Live, Fosse/Verdon) takes us right to the late 1700s as an ambitious Hamilton (Miranda), a man of impoverished upbringing, fights his way up the ranks arriving in New York City. He lands a job as a secretary to George Washington (Christopher Jackson). We witness what is a complicated love life, meeting his eventual wife Eliza (Phillipa Soo) and also her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), in what is an emotional if not physical love triangle that spans several decades. We see Hamilton‘s marriage to his work, which removes him from his family and in his political ascent, we see resentment from “frenemy” Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), a lawyer and politician also on-the-rise with presidential aspirations. The second-half of the Film focuses on Hamilton‘s run as Secretary of the Treasury and we see his clashing with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), while ultimately endorsing him for President and not Burr, leading the latter to kill Hamilton in a duel.
HAMILTON is the story of an unsung hero; a Founding Father who was unstoppable as a Federalist and in his promotion of the Constitution. Being a hero though doesn’t come without cost and we witness at what cost success came with in terms of Hamilton‘s family life and being unpopular with some politically. While largely a Political Dramedy told in contemporary speak, it hits the mark emotionally in the end in a way you wish it wouldn’t end – even after almost three hours. Through it all, we are asked who will continue to share his story and clearly people care with HAMILTON continuing to shatter Box Office records and winning 11 Tony Awards in 2016.
Odom flourishes as Burr, taking-on perhaps the most challenging role and humanizing it, stealing literally every scene. Diggs filling dual capacities as both Lafayette and Jefferson and shines, giving us two completely different spectrums of Comedy. Jackson also delivers a commanding performance as Washington, leaving his mark, which isn’t an easy thing to do among such a strong male Cast. While seen only briefly, Jonathan Groff as King George III is a darkly-whimsical delight and we love how Declan Quinn‘s Cinematography takes us right there onto the stage and immersed in the moment, almost feeling the spit coming out of Groff‘s mouth when he sings. Soo captivates us with heart and humanity in a story filled with a lot of male ambition and last but not least, Miranda carries this all start to finish. To think all of this a product of his genius mind is gobsmacking.
We were one of those unfortunate individuals who had a ticket to see Hamilton prior to this Pandemic, but seeing the Film helped ease the pain as we have the assurance of knowing we witnessed its greatness still even if not how we planned. HAMILTON boldly uses a stage platform and innovatively Hip-Hop/R&B music, to tell its story and this is a big part of its winning recipe reaching an audience which might not normally be as invested Theatre. And this just might be the future.
HAMILTON can be streamed now on Disney+.