“Straight to DVD” was once the ultimate put-down for film and TV, but “straight to streaming” is all too common in the age of Corona. Amongst the productions to have suffered that fate, few will improve on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant Hamilton, recorded at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in 2016 and, in some ways, better on screen than on stage.
A score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, Hamilton created a momentous moment in musical theatre when it landed on stage, but maybe not typical Disney fare. In the Independent A O Scott says that Hamilton “while not strictly speaking a documentary, is nonetheless a document of its moment. It evokes a swirl of ideas, debates, dreams, and assumptions that can feel, in the present moment, as elusive as the intrigue and ideological sparring of the late 1700s.” Bringing it to screen also “brings long-dead, legend-shrouded people to vivid and sympathetic life. The close-ups and camera movements in this version enhance the charisma of the performers, adding a dimension of intimacy that compensates for the lost electricity of the live theatrical experience.”
The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar agrees: “Even more remarkably, it keeps all the power of a live performance while simultaneously adding a filmic pizzazz including some breathtaking aerial shots.” And goes on, “The film keeps all the energy of the stage, from the large-scale war scenes to the political power battles which are staged as rap battles.” For Chris Harvey in The Telegraph the screen version “paid back five-fold” from the stage play. And he concludes, “Hamilton’s diverse cast and its theme that it matters who tells your story has never seemed more timely.”
If you don’t want to dive into Disney+ for Hamilton, we can also recommend a brilliant clip on YouTube from the Obama White House official account that shows Lin-Manuel performing an excerpt from the musical back in 2015. Quite a moment and a terrific bit of TV.
First shown July 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.