Now, months later, with the rebound of the coronavirus in the United States, Hamilton arrived just before America’s Independence Day. (Miranda said he was influenced by the stories of people who had tickets to the musical about Alexander Hamilton, the founding father who created the modern American banking system, but who were unable to attend due to the virus.)
WATCH | Official trailer of the filmed version of Hamilton:
Whether it’s streaming at home or live on stage, what are the Hamilton apart is not only his boast, but a revolutionary reinvention of America. No more moldy portraits of men in powdered wigs. Instead, the scene is filled with a multiracial cast that appears to have been shot from a block in Brooklyn, New York.
Immigrants who do the work sing the young republic’s struggle for independence, first fighting against England, then tracing a path to follow. With the cadence now familiar to Miranda’s words, the cabinet debates become numbers with the exchanges of Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in both directions.
There is something so appropriate to using the irreverence of hip hop, an art form based on remixing and sampling, to tell the story of men writing their own rules.
This multiracial tale of American history isn’t just about inclusion. The cast also gives new life to the history lesson. As an aspiring Hamilton, Miranda’s eyes sparkle in ambition, while her rival Aaron Burr, played by Leslie Odom Jr., can barely contain her urge.
Then there is Daveed Diggs, who serves both as French military officer Marquis de Lafayette and Jefferson. As Lafayette, Diggs bounces playfully on the stage, while as Jefferson, he personifies style and intelligence to keep Hamilton at bay.
Part of what makes the filmed version so melancholy is that it works as a reminder. This was recorded B.P. – before the pandemic, in the last days of the Obama presidency. But more than the atmosphere of optimism hovering in the air, the two live performances recorded in June 2016 marked the end of the original cast. This may explain the additional level of emotion in many of the performances – Miranda’s voice trembling as he reaches the peak of a song.
WATCH | Near the start of the musical, Miranda appears as the young Hamilton starting his political career:
How they captured it
The ability to perceive this level of detail is part of what makes this recording unique. Director Kail used fixed cameras hidden from the public. Then, filming in the empty Richard Rodgers Theater, the cast happened again and again as wagons, cranes and Steadicams followed the action.
The result is something of a hybrid, capturing the energy of the stage production, the audience applauding but also providing close-ups, zooming in to see King George’s flying sputum during You will come back or the tears running down the cheeks of Eliza, Hamilton’s wife.
With a duration of two hours and 40 minutes (including an intermission), Hamilton is an endurance exercise, but Miranda wisely breaks politics by exploring the complications of Hamilton’s love life. While the Schuyler sisters, Eliza and Angelica, are more side plots than equal partners in the story, it gives the production a chance to literally change the melody, from combat raps to heartfelt ballads.
Given the hectic nature of the staging and the fast pace of the songs, Hamilton takes time to adjust to the small screen. At the theater, you can choose to follow an artist; here the camera chooses for you.
WATCH | Hamilton’s rival Aaron Burr tells The Room Where It Happened, a song about backstage deals:
At one point, Hamilton sings his legacy, describing it as “planting seeds in a garden you will never see”.
Admittedly, Miranda never knew that her film would be released at a time when everything exists in this strange state of suspended animation.
But like a time capsule from an early age, Hamilton arrives with a much needed burst of inspiration. It is more of a celebration of America’s promise than a catalog of the nation’s sins.
Slavery is mentioned but only in a few passing refrains. Miranda’s musical revitalizes part of the long forgotten American dream.
Towards the end, Hamilton said, “I wrote some notes at the start of a song that someone will sing for me. ”
Now is the perfect time to enjoy this song.