Just As It Was On Stage, ‘Hamilton’ Is As Excellent and Necessary As Ever – Review
For the first time ever, fans can stream the hit play Hamilton: An American Musical on Disney+. Like most things, Broadway has taken a break due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so the Broadway experience is coming to our homes.
Hamilton first hit the stage in January 2015 – selling out show after show, instantly becoming a musical and cultural phenomenon. However, as Broadway tickets are rather pricey, not everybody got the chance to see what all the hype was about. What’s so good about this play that has people ecstatic about the American Revolution?
Five years late to the game, I can confirm that Hamilton really is a spectacular show in every right. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton book, the play follows Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) as he gets riled up for the revolution, debates the nation’s next steps after independence, and contemplates how he can leave a lasting legacy. His economic model of infinite national debt is still in practice today.
It’s obvious now, but Miranda is a force of genius. Not only does he flawlessly play our lead, but he also wrote the accompanying story, music and lyrics. Many of us who haven’t seen the Broadway show that made him a household name first got a taste of his musical genius in Moana. However, the music in Hamilton reaches different heights. Modern hip-hop, rap, and pop music conventions are perfectly blended with lyrics that aptly reflect what’s going on in America in the late 1700s.
Andy Blankenbuehler’s powerful choreography further complements this mixture of modernity and history, encapsulating the anachronistic nature of the play. The uniform dances prioritize the whole ensemble over one major character, but still keeps in mind the individual flair the characters can give as the moves are just as clever as the lyrics.
The play is a little under three hours with a one-minute intermission. Needless to say, every single minute is thrilling and leaves no room for boredom. Even though you may know what happens next because of history, you will still find yourself wondering what will happen next as so much of the play is an unexpected reimagining of historical facts and figures.
As it is to be expected, Hamilton received backlash for casting Black and brown performers as white characters. This criticism greatly quieted down after people saw the play, but it still needs to be addressed. The only people in power at the time were white men who owned land. If the cast were to be racially accurate, it would be the whitest play in the history of plays. Yes, Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and many others depicted in the play enslaved Black people or were complicit. Thankfully, the writing doesn’t ignore this ugly reality, rather it subverts expectations to dive into an intriguing narrative of the people who shaped America. If racially accurate casting was to be a priority that means we would be deprived of Diggs spitting bars on stage as a white Founding Father, and I don’t want it. It’s casting like this that lets the talents of Black and brown people shine through complex and compelling roles that they otherwise would rarely be considered for. And, this cast is enormously talented, each of their unique talents on full display.
“I think it takes on a different meaning when you see Black and brown performers telling the origin story of our country,” Miranda states in the foreword with director Thomas Kail. “So much of what Hamilton is about is what history remembers and how that changes over time.”
How these performers mastered the control and stage presence to do what they do is beyond me, but I’m glad they did it. Sure, it’s entertaining and educational, but it’s so much more than that. Despite the fact that the women don’t have as much power as their man counterparts, all the characters on stage are given agency and purpose. No one is given less than they or the character deserves. Young Black and brown children seeing people that look like them make history and recontextualize history makes a difference, they too can make history.
You can catch Hamilton: An American Musical on July 3 exclusively on Disney+.
Nothing but love.