Like many, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to check out Hamilton for the first time when it came out on Disney+ yesterday. And why not? It’s been an absolute hit ever since it crashed into our lives in 2015. I knew of the musical pretty much from the start, but never really had the opportunity to check it out, not even to listen to the music….until now that is.
And holy SH*T what music!! I don’t always get into rap or hip-hop and I was briefly worried that this would deter me from getting into or enjoying Hamilton but I was so, so wrong. If anything, the story feels even more relatable when presented in this way. In brief, in case you’re not familiar, Hamilton chronicles the rise (and fall) of Alexander Hamilton in a way I guarantee you’ve ever seen before. What’s released on Disney+ is a filmed production of a show from late June 2016 and features the original Broadway cast.
I’ve seen filmed stage productions before (Cats from the late 90s, Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall), but they pale in comparison to this performance of Hamilton (not least because Cats and Phantom are WORLDS apart from this show). As you sit and watch you feel like you’re in the best seat in the house, seeing the show from the perfect angle. There are close-ups in the appropriate places, the overall sound quality is amazing, and oh my god I cannot get over all of that amazing music!
Now, I will say that the first time I watched Hamilton (last night), it did take me about half an hour to get into the flow. As I said before, I don’t listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop so I’m not used to that kind of freestyle, free-flowing music. Once you get the hang of listening to it, however, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, even if a few details do get lost in the shuffle (when Lafayette comes back as a general I still can’t tell you what he says). I think my two favorite pieces (really I love them all) are “The Ten Dueling Commandments” and “The Room Where it Happens.” I especially like the former because it lays out everything you need to know about a duel while still keeping it interesting.
I also love, love, LOVE the fact that Aaron Burr narrates the overall story, that reminds me so much of how Judas narrates the bulk of Jesus Christ Superstar (and according to my reading may have been done in homage to that very show). Let me tell you, when I found out that THAT was Aaron Burr my first thought was “Oh boy, THIS is going to be interesting.” And it is! Watching Burr and Hamilton interact throughout the whole show, knowing how it’s going to end….let’s just say by the time the climax finally comes the suspense will be almost overwhelming.
Lin-Manuel Miranda found this way to take the life of Alexander Hamilton, a story with all the potential to make for very dry reading/viewing and made it cool (and heartbreaking). To be sure, liberties are taken with the facts, but that’s not uncommon when history is adapted for musical theater. I think in the very broad strokes the story Miranda is trying to get across is correct, that Hamilton was this immigrant who did amazing things during his life, but who was also human and made many, MANY mistakes (my jaw dropped upon learning about the Reynolds pamphlet).
I also have to say that I love King George III. His part is relatively small but he is FUNNY! Watching him comment on the coming war, the aftermath, and John Adams becoming the next president, all of it had me in stitches. He is one of the best parts of Hamilton and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Before I conclude, I learned something about dueling that made my brain explode. In a duel, “throwing away your shot” refers to firing so that you deliberately miss your opponent in a last ditch effort to end the affair once and for all. So when Alexander sings about not “throwing away my shot”, well….it kind of puts the ending of his story in a whole different light, doesn’t it.
In conclusion, I thoroughly loved watching Hamilton on Disney+ and I feel like everyone should sit down and watch it at least once. Given that Broadway is closed for the rest of 2020 (and possibly longer), this is your best chance to watch one of the hottest shows on Broadway (without paying an arm and a leg). I also think that, given the current political climate, this is also a really good time to watch Hamilton as well, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.
As for me, I’m perfectly happy to proclaim myself a Hamilton fan.
Let me know what you think about Hamilton on Disney+ in the comments below and have a great day!
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