The revolution is finally televised, thank God.
The long-awaited live capture of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “Hamilton” comes out on Disney + on Friday, an opportunity to celebrate America’s independence with some of its founding fathers.
The timing seems ideal. Or, given all that has rocked this nation in recent months, couldn’t it be revolutionary enough?
The show features the original Broadway cast – which Miranda called “an incredible ’28 Yankees of actors” – and was filmed in the summer of 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater in front of a boisterous crowd. RadicalMedia, which recorded the last night of “Rent”, recorded two performances of “Hamilton” and asked the actors on leave to come back to take close-ups.
The show won 11 Tony Awards, including Best New Musical, Best Book, and Best Score. The casting album was a blockbuster and the show shot in crowded houses. But it was only in this filmed version that the original cast married again with the choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and the lighting design by Howell Binkley. These are all seeds of the conquering greatness of the world.
Thomas Kail, who directed the hit “Grease: Live” on Fox and won a Tony for directing “Hamilton”, directed the filmed version. Kail’s camera captures the intimate faces of the actors at key moments in a way impossible for theater buffs and incorporates audience reaction to create an electric film version.
The music traces the rise and fall of statesman Alexander Hamilton and highlights his roots as orphans and immigrants – “Immigrants.” We do the job! Is a line that receives huge applause – as does his almost Greek tragedy of a fall, fueled by ambition.
It’s hard to underestimate the freshness of “Hamilton” just a few years ago: a reconquest of America’s founding history through a multicultural cast using modern music, language and themes. Based on a biography of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron-Chernow and developed during the presidency of the first black president, the show was optimistic and ambitious, changing Broadway traditions but also respecting them. What other spectacle would two founding fathers oppose in a rap battle to know whether to help France?
Many members of the brilliant cast were relatively unknown from around the world when they reached the stage: Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Phillipa Soo. Even Miranda, who plays Hamilton and wrote the songs and the history of the musical, was not yet a brand name.
The music mixes RandB, hip-hop and performing tunes. There are songs from Gilbert and Sullivan, Grandmaster Flash, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jason Robert Brown, DMX and the Notorious BIG It riffs on Shakespeare and the Bible. It could only come from a mind as bright and hungry as Miranda’s.
This version reminds us of this talent but also its absence: Broadway continued to be Broadway after “Hamilton” for the most part, often returning to dusty or safe shows. It turns out that Miranda’s bold step was not the sharp end of the spear – it was just a glorious unique event. “Hamilton” has raised the possibility of a bright future and, now five years after its debut, Broadway has clearly wasted its shot.
So, with cinemas inactive due to the pandemic, the arrival in accelerated streaming of the cinematographic version – which was to arrive in cinemas in October 2021 – is welcome. But a second societal spasm – the confrontation with racial injustice – made “Hamilton” a problematic choice following the death of George Floyd.
The nation looks different from a few years ago, ready for another revolution, this time on the streets, not in the salons where it happened in the 1700s. We re-examine our dark history and to whom it is dear . The statues fall, old heroes are questioned and past indiscretions are brought to light.
“Hamilton” – despite all its progressiveness – is not immune to this review. He looked at America’s past and raised his own statues. But he bypassed the white supremacist origins of the nation, despite the fact that three minority players play current white presidents or future slave owners.
Thomas Jefferson is depicted as the only bad founding father who participated in slavery. “Your debts are paid because you don’t pay for the work,” teases Hamilton Jefferson in a cabinet rap battle. “We know who really does the planting.”
However, the ownership of slaves by George Washington is not mentioned at all and Hamilton’s role as the owner of slaves has been laundered. “Hamilton” in 2020 crashes on Black Lives Matter and turns out to be less powerful, less revolutionary.
On the show, Miranda’s line: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” was a plea to put Hamilton back in the history books, to recover this lost founding father. The genius of “Hamilton” is unchanged – how history remembers and changes.
But in 2020, the question of how we tell stories changed direction. Who tells our story? It would be white – and the show’s objective could blur the bridge, but they are still elite white men. “Hamilton” once asked us to look again at the birth of America, but it is hard not to think that it may soon face its own type of calculation.
He did not do all the work.
“Hamilton”, a version of Disney Plus, is classified PG-13 for gun violence and adult themes. Duration: 161 minutes. Four stars out of four.
Source: AP News