Reel Opinions


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Hamilton

Before the pandemic hit, I was a frequent visitor to New York City, and would often build my trips solely around watching as many of the latest Broadway and Off Broadway productions that I could fit into the week that I was visiting.  And I distinctly remember the deafening hype that Hamilton created when it opened and performed a sold out run at the Off Broadway Public Theater in February 2015.  With its imminent Broadway transfer already set for that summer at the Richard Rodgers Theater, I knew that this was a theatrical event I could not miss, and during a theater trip that April, I walked to the Rodgers box office to see if I could score a ticket for October of that year, when I knew I would be returning for another visit.

With tickets already having gone on sale a few weeks earlier, pickings were slim, and many of the performances I was looking at to attend in six months were already sold out.  However, I managed to find a great Mezzanine seat for the evening of Thursday, October 15th, 2015. (Yes, I still have the ticket, as I do for all the shows that I have attended for the past 22 years.)  I was one of the lucky few who got to see the original Broadway cast of this show that has gone on to become not just a theatrical phenomenon, but probably the most important musical event of the past decade.  Telling the life and story of one of America's founding fathers using modern day hip-hop and pop music, writer-creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda created not just a musical history lesson, but one that used a diverse cast of actors of different colors to portray the roles.

Given its runaway success both on Broadway and the National Tour, it was still hard to get a ticket even five years after the show premiered, right up until recent events forced all theatrical productions to close until at least 2021.  That's why this filmed version of Hamilton exists, so that everyone (or at least everyone who has access to the Disney+ streaming service) can see the show performed by Miranda and the rest of the astounding original cast who were the first to bring this show to amazing life.  Filmed over two separate days during different live performances at the Richard Rodgers, this is an intimate recording of a live theater event of a lifetime.  The original show's director, Thomas Kail, has set things up so we're not just watching the show from afar, but gives us a glorious up close and personal film that gives you a better view of the action than even those who paid obscene prices to sit in the first few rows in front of the stage.

Thanks to the energetic editing and camerawork, this Hamilton is something that can be savored by both those who have all the songs memorized forward and backwards, and those who just want to know what all the excitement is about.  I honestly can't think of a better way to capture the one of a kind energy that the original production truly was.  It's one of those theatrical experiences that have stayed with me since I saw it, and now with this, I can revisit it whenever I want to.  It's truly a spectacle, and probably the biggest streaming event of the year.  What I particularly admired is how it's been filmed so that we don't miss a single detail, and actually get to see details that audiences probably missed the first time.  Using multiple cameras, the editing is frantic enough to keep up with the high energy of the show, but it's never alienating or confusing.  I can see this easily creating not just new fans of this particular production, but maybe live theater in general.

Condensing the life of Alexander Hamilton (played by Miranda) into a little over two and a half hours (with a one minute intermission in this film) is no small feat, but the show kicks off with his arrival in New York in 1776 as the American Revolution is getting underway.  Befriending famous faces like Aaron Burr (a sensational Leslie Odom Jr.) and even George Washington, Hamilton raises through the ranks of history, falls in love with the beautiful Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and finds himself "in the room where it happened" when our founding fathers came together.  The second half of the show covers Hamilton's personal fall, as an affair with another woman destroys his political career, and the death of his eldest son in a gun duel takes a personal toll on the man.  It all eventually leads up to the famous rift that builds with his former friend, Aaron Burr, and how that rift led to another early morning gun duel between the two men.


Hamilton is famous not just for its widely diverse music score, covering a wide range of songs which make it almost certain that at least one song will connect with everyone in the audience, but also for how it depicts its historical figures and tells the story.  Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) comes across as a self-involved egotist in his portrayal, while the pompous King George (Jonathan Groff) is portrayed as an over the top comic relief figure, who wonders how the rebels who turned against him will do without him to guide them.  Everyone here speaks with modern day talk and sings with today's music, but it's never distracting here.  That's because Miranda is using today's America to tell the story of how it was founded.  It doesn't feel like a gimmick, as Miranda (who wrote the songs as well as the dialogue) has a centralized vision, and never once strays.  He was the right person to tell this story, and the way he tells it could only come from him. 

This is the kind of supreme entertainment we seldom get, either in the live theater or the filmed medium.  To have both come together so beautifully as it does here truly feels just as much of a bolt of energy as it did almost five years ago when I was watching it live.  This is the rare film you must go out of your way to see.  It's truly one of the most stunning theater performances ever captured on film.


1 comments

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018
01/01/2018 - 02/01/2018
02/01/2018 - 03/01/2018
03/01/2018 - 04/01/2018
04/01/2018 - 05/01/2018
05/01/2018 - 06/01/2018
06/01/2018 - 07/01/2018
07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018
08/01/2018 - 09/01/2018
09/01/2018 - 10/01/2018
10/01/2018 - 11/01/2018
11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018
12/01/2018 - 01/01/2019
01/01/2019 - 02/01/2019
02/01/2019 - 03/01/2019
03/01/2019 - 04/01/2019
04/01/2019 - 05/01/2019
05/01/2019 - 06/01/2019
06/01/2019 - 07/01/2019
07/01/2019 - 08/01/2019
08/01/2019 - 09/01/2019
09/01/2019 - 10/01/2019
10/01/2019 - 11/01/2019
11/01/2019 - 12/01/2019
12/01/2019 - 01/01/2020
01/01/2020 - 02/01/2020
02/01/2020 - 03/01/2020
03/01/2020 - 04/01/2020
04/01/2020 - 05/01/2020
05/01/2020 - 06/01/2020
06/01/2020 - 07/01/2020
07/01/2020 - 08/01/2020
08/01/2020 - 09/01/2020
09/01/2020 - 10/01/2020
10/01/2020 - 11/01/2020
11/01/2020 - 12/01/2020
12/01/2020 - 01/01/2021

Powered by Blogger