Film Review: Hamilton on Disney+

Disney Plus finally brought us the moment many theatre fans have been waiting a long time to see – Hamilton, in our own homes!

After buying the rights for the filmed version of the stage show for a cool $75 million, Disney and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda announced on the 12 May that the show would be streamed on Disney+, leaving many fans eagerly waiting for their shot to see the celebrated original Broadway Cast of Hamilton work their magic.

Reviewing a phenomenon such as Hamilton is difficult, even in its new form. The show has garnered critical success. The Broadway show was nominated for a record breaking 16 Tony Awards and won 11 of them. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The London production won seven Olivier Awards when it opened. It’s hard to argue that the show is anything but excellent viewing – and this film proved that.

We’ve had years to listen to the soundtrack since it was released in September 2015. That’s nearly five years of appreciating the music that made the show such a hit, allowing us to admire the vocal gymnastics that each cast member performs as they sing, rap and harmonise with staggering skill.

No one needs me to tell them that the music written solely by Lin-Manuel Miranda is a work of genius. With over six million certified sales, the soundtrack is six times platinum in the US – with each individual song being at least certified Gold in its own right.

It won the Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album in 2016 and was ranked at number 11 on Billboard’s Top 200 of the Decade (2010-2019) – beating Adele’s 25 and The Greatest Showman soundtrack. The soundtrack sold well because it is a mind-bending collaboration of musical theatre, hip-hop, and jazz that shouldn’t work, but does because of the extreme talent and care put into it.

What the film provides is an opportunity for other aspects (not just the music) of the show to shine; aspects that those who haven’t been fortunate enough to see in person can finally appreciate. We can finally fully understand why all those elements, – as well as the music – won all those awards.

We get to see for the first time – without having to be “in the room where it happens” – why seven of the ten leading cast members were nominated for Tony Awards. Aside from the importance of stellar vocals from all of them, their acting performances prove exactly how talented they all are.

Leslie Odom Jr’s journey from a poised, and a promising young man to an angry, almost unravelling, a spurned politician makes for the perfect villain of the show. Phillipa Soo’s Eliza nimbly grows from a swooning young girl to a devoted wife and mother. You watch as her heart repeatedly breaks on stage – as Act Two unfolds.

Leslie Odom Jr to leave Hamilton on Broadway | | WestEndTheatre ...
Leslie Odom Jr as Aaron Burr
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What’s more impressive is the ability of the cast to do so much with so little, especially Jonathan Groff and Jasmine Cephas Jones who play King George III and Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds respectively. Groff is on stage as the crazy king of England for a whopping nine minutes to sing breakup songs to the United States, but still manages to be one of the main highlights of the show – despite his gratuitous spit.

Cephas Jones has minimal singing lines of her own, but everyone is jaw-dropping beautiful. Her silent presence at the side of the stage as Maria Reynolds – who has to watch as her narrative is taken away from her – allows you to remember her as a victim in Hamilton’s efforts to maintain his legacy.

It’s not only the cast that makes the film worth watching, Hamilton is visually beautiful thanks to its creative team. Paul Tazewell’s Tony-winning costume design draws you into the time of the show, with each character in period clothing with their own distinctive colours.

Celebrated scenic designer David Korins’ bare bones set and Howell Binkley’s clever lighting design is used to create spaces on the stage and allows the cast to shine past an overbearing or complicated set. However, the choreography steals the show. Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton features battle scenes, three duels, a ball, and Government meetings; all of which are filled with movement.

Much like Miranda’s music, Blankenbuehler’s choreography is a mash up of many styles – incorporating everything from ballet, to swing, to hip hop. It is a whirlwind of graceful movement performed by a captivating ensemble of dancers. The choreography is integral to the show, helping move the plot along through its intense moments of fighting and duelling. Hamilton is as much about the choreography as it is the music. It is incomplete without both.

As mentioned before, it’s hard not to sing the praises of such critically claimed and well-loved show. But the Hamilton film deserves it. Not only should it be celebrated for the excellence it showcases, but the accessibility to musical it provides to those who Broadway often systematically shuts out. Though, that is a topic for another day. I truly urge you to stream Hamilton.

By Robbie Nichols

Feature image: Daily Bulletin

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