PLOT A filmed production of the hit Broadway musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
CAST Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo
RATED PG-13 (mild language, some suggestive material)
WHERE Streaming starting Friday on Disney Plus
BOTTOM LINE The closest most of us will come — especially now — to a front-row seat at one of Broadway’s most acclaimed productions.
You never saw “Hamilton”? You weren’t one of the early adopters who saw Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking hip-hop version of American history at the Public Theater in 2015? Not when it moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre and became a cultural phenomenon, a Broadway musical with name recognition to rival “The Book of Mormon” and maybe even “Cats”? Even after the record-setting 16 Tony nominations, a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a general sense that a watershed moment in American culture was happening just beyond the East River, you never saw “Hamilton"?
Neither did I — and now Broadway has closed at least through January during the global pandemic. Those of us who missed it, however, can take some comfort in Disney’s recorded version of “Hamilton.” Filmed at the Richard Rodgers with the original Broadway cast in June 2016, “Hamilton” is also a victim of the pandemic: When movie theaters shut down, it shifted to Disney Plus. This might not be a bad thing. Long hailed for its modernized, colorblind approach to American history, “Hamilton” feels even more relevant while protests against entrenched racism are spreading around the world. And now, Miranda’s innovative musical is available right in everyone’s living room.
The movie ably captures everything that has made the musical so highly acclaimed, from the rhythmic hip-hop dialogue that resonates like 21st-century Shakespeare to the delightful cognitive dissonance of watching actors of color play ultra-white Americans. Miranda shines as Hamilton, a man of high ambition (if not infallible judgment) determined to play a part in an unpredictable experiment called America. Leslie Odom Jr. i terrific as Aaron Burr — the cautious Salieri to Hamilton’s bold Mozart — while Daveed Diggs nearly steals the show as a cocky Thomas Jefferson in a purple frock coat (think Prince as a Founding Father). Phillipa Soo, as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, gives the show an emotional center that helps it from becoming solely a clever retelling of history.
Directed with a steady hand by Thomas Kail, “Hamilton” doesn’t quite capture the electricity of a live performance, though mid-song laughs and cheers can occasionally be heard from the audience (there’s also a one-minute intermission). “Hamilton” will surely return when Broadway does, but for now this document will serve nicely in its stead.