Rejoice! Hamilton has finally arrived to Disney+, and it's better than ever. It's superior Theatre entertainment at its finest; that beautifully shines beyond Broadway's stage. This marvelous time-capsule is full of high energy and exemplifies the rap opera about our "ten-dollar Founding Father." Five-stars.
The streaming event of the year has arrived to Disney+, and it's a bonafide stage recording of musical fireworks. Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2015 phenomenon has captured America's heart and will continue to surprise you even to this day. The acclaimed show musical tells the story of an American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton — blending hip hop, R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes. Hamilton also casts non-white actors (Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American) as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Miranda has described the musical as "America then, as told by America now." It's a glorious melody of our country's beginning shown through the eyes of diversity. Hamilton also went on to receive a record-setting 16 Tony nominations, winning 11 awards, including Best Musical. The pop-culture phenomenon also went on to win a Grammy (Best Musical Theater Album) and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shot over three days in June of 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York, we are blessed to see the original cast in their respected roles.
Referred to as Hamilfilm, the recorded stage version is a feast for our eyes. My hope for the future is that we will see more live recordings of Broadway musicals. It will be a great way to introduce people to the wonders of Broadway beyond the stage. Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography inspired Miranda's Broadway musical — "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten/spot in the Caribbean by Providence impoverished in squalor/grow up to be a hero and a scholar?" Miranda is a first-generation Puerto Rican who puts on the blue coat as Mr. Hamilton while helping to support the revolution. Miranda's energetic presence will have you on your feet cheering him on. Hamilton proclaims, "I’m young, scrappy and hungry/And I’m not throwing away my shot!" Miranda is powerful, yet he knows the show is more than just him — full of other grandeur artists that prevail Hamilton to another dimension. At the start of the revolution, Hamilton befriends Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs), Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan), and John Laurens (Anthony Ramos). Respectfully, Diggs, Onaodowan, and Ramos all play dual roles in the musical. In the first act, Diggs articulates his French accent as the loyal companion, Lafayette, while he fiercely captures our third President, Thomas Jefferson, in the second act.
At the start of the second act, Jefferson proudly returns from France and sings to the catchy song, “What’d I Miss?” Hamilton and Jefferson begin to engage in rap battles on the direction they believe the country should be heading. Diggs' enthusiasm in both Lafayette and Jefferson is performed brilliantly. While Diggs' transformation from one character to the next is superbly executed on the stage. Diggs trades in his French accent and blue coat for a cocky attitude and a slick maroon coat. Onaodowan's dual role is both Mulligan (first act) and James Madison (second act). Onaodowan nails the energetic and gruff performance of Mulligan, who was a spy for the Continental Army. Onaodowan then slows things down as he transforms into the calm and quiet Madison. Ramos' dual role is both Laurens (first act) and Philip Hamilton (second act). Ramos' embodies the heroicness of Laurens — an avid critique of slavery, who fought for their freedom and died trying. In the second act, Ramos entails a more cocky attitude of a young Phillip Hamilton, who was killed in a duel at the age of 19. This tragedy haunted Hamilton and his wife, Eliza (played by Phillipa Soo). Back in the first act, Hamilton is introduced to the Schuyler sisters: Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Eliza (Soo), and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones). "Work!" Goldsberry beautifully engulfs the nobility of Angelica Schuyler. She chooses to past on Hamilton, introducing him to her sister Eliza (Soo) instead.
This doesn't stop Angelica from majestically performing an illuminating song, "Satisfied", at Hamilton and Eliza's wedding. We see the lights glimmer and the rotating stage reverse in direction, illustrating a break in-time. Slow-moving, our characters rappel with backward motions to embody Angelica's thoughts as she recalls how she feels about Hamilton inside her head. "But Alexander I'll never forget the first time I saw your face/I have never been the same/Intelligent eyes in a hunger pain fame/And when you said hi I forgot my dang name/You set my heart aflame, every part aflame, this is not a game." It's a captivating scene that will send goosebumps down your arms. While Soo breathlessly captures Eliza's shining presence — we hear her voice roar as she sings to the heartbreaking melody, "Burn." In the second act, Hamilton becomes entangled in an affair with Maria Reynolds (also played by Jones). Eliza burns all of the letters Hamilton wrote her and rightfully so. "I'm burning the memories/Burning the letters that might have redeemed you/You forfeit all rights to my heart/You forfeit the place in our bed/You'll sleep in your office instead/With only memories of when you were mine/I hope that you burn." Soo's pain on the stage is raw and powerful a burning passion transforms from inside her voice and blasts through the screen. Actor Christopher Jackson is the another commanding presence on the stage with a massive build and a strong voice. Jackson plays our first President, George Washington. Hamilton is Washington's "Right Hand Man" and becomes our country's first Secretary of the Treasury. One of the most profound moments during the musical is during Jackson's song "One Last Time."
Here, we see a President who wants to step down and let the country move on. Washington knows his time in office should be limited and that democracy should prevail. Jackson's roaring words are a beating heart that will ease your conscience. “Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree/And no one shall make them afraid/They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made/I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree/A moment alone in the shade/At home in this nation we’ve made/One last time." Let us not forget, Jonathan Groff's dazzling performance as King George III — you'll laugh until your sides hurt from Groff's buffoonish incarnation as the tyrant king. "Oceans rise, empire fall/We have seen each other through it all/And when push comes to shove/I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love." Finally, Aaron Burr played by the marvelous Leslie Odom Jr. will burn your soul with his profound words. "And me, I'm the damn fool that shot him" or "Love doesn't discriminate/Between the sinners/And the saints/It takes and it takes and it takes." Odom Jr. won a Tony for his moving performance, giving us a tender and stirring feat full of range.
Burr and Hamilton started out as friends in the early days and then began growing farther apart. Once, Hamilton endorsed his known foe, Thomas Jefferson, instead of Burr for the 1800 presidential election, Burr's anger grew darker. "Jefferson has my vote/I have never agreed with Jefferson once/We have fought on like seventy-five diff’rent fronts/But when all is said and all is done/Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none." This endorsement wedges a divide between Burr and Hamilton — leading them to settle their differences by duel, where Burr's political trigger is the striking blow to Hamilton's life. In addition to these splendid characters are a lively stage, dynamic lighting, a moving score, and a spirited Ensemble. Everything is meticulously calculated on the set — from the transcendent colors that brighten and darken, to the rotating sphere in the middle that keeps our actors always moving. Hamilton will continue to be a phenomenon, while also being a beacon of hope in this dark world of ours. "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?" Hamilton will spark a light inside of you, as we get to watch it over and over again from the best seat in the house.
Hamilton is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For language and some suggestive material.
This masterpiece is directed by Thomas Kail
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Chris Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Jonathan Groff.
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