CERT: 12 | PLATFORM: DISNEY+ | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical Hamilton premiered in 2015, everyone’s heard about it, but due to rare and expensive performances, not many of us have managed to see it. This holy grail seemed even more inaccessible when theatres closed in spring; thankfully, Disney Plus has now released a filmed version.
It follows Alexander Hamilton, one of the USA's founding fathers: his origins as an orphaned immigrant, his fight alongside George Washington during the American Revolution, and his post-war political career. Plus, plenty of drama in Hamilton’s personal life, including his ill-fated rivalry with Aaron Burr and American politics’ very first sex scandal.
Hamilton teaches us this history through two-and-a-half hours of high-energy music; one number after another taking in hip hop, R&B, jazz and show tunes, with seriously impressive choreography and staging. Miranda’s lead performance is captivating, and there are great supporting turns, including Daveed Diggs as a flamboyant Jefferson and Jonathan Groff as a comically nasty King George.
Two issues could stop this production from being the masterpiece it was to theatre audiences in 2015. The first is that, in these more divisive times when historical narratives are being questioned, some have called out its positive portrayal of slave owners like Jefferson. This criticism has weight, though the show does reference the issue, and it doesn’t cancel out Hamilton’s progressive achievement of bringing many BAME actors to stardom and bringing hip hop and R&B to theatre audiences.
The second issue is that watching a recording of a stage show is never the same as being in the theatre. Nevertheless, director Thomas Kail and his team have done a remarkable job; this version is edited together from three full recordings, plus additional dolly shots filmed without an audience present, and, despite a few scenes that overly rely on wide angles, the camerawork captures the show’s high energy.