By the time I saw Hamilton, a little over four years ago this week, I memorized the recording of the distribution – each note, each inflection, each pause – to the point that seeing it was like living three hours of deja-vu . But there was one moment that took me completely by surprise, the one that the millions of people who know Hamilton it is only as an album and not as a stage performance that we will be able to discover for the first time the filmed version of the show which will arrive on Disney + Friday.
Watch the Hamilton film, which was directed by Thomas Kail of the stage production and shot with the original cast of Broadway in situ at the Richard Rodgers Theater, you might see some pieces of the show that did not end up on the album. Most famous, there is the “surprise scene” in which Alexander Hamilton learns of the death of John Laurens, who presents the longest dialogue exchange spoken in the musical crossed, and there are some brief interstitial indications which help to inaugurate Jonathan Groff’s King George on and off the stage. But the most significant moment that’s only in the stage version is coming to an end – in fact, it’s the very last thing you see, the moment when Eliza Hamilton lets out her dying gasp and goes to join her husband. the other side .
Hamilton ends with “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, which provides an answer to the seemingly rhetorical question that was asked on the show. Hamilton is dead, killed in a duel by his rival Aaron Burr, and he is survived by his wife, Eliza, who spends the 50 years after his death keeping his heritage. Until then, Burr has been the narrator of the musical, a columnist amazed at the inexplicable success of his bitter frenzy. (Kail’s film largely keeps the camera on the public side of the front stage, but it gets close enough that you can see the painful grimace on Leslie Odom Jr.’s face as he recounts how Hamilton has once again managed to stand out.) But in the final, Eliza takes over and tells not only the story of her late husband but hers.
Throughout the series, Eliza is the character most concerned with the legacy of Alexander and wonders if there is even a place. She begs him to “let me be part of the story, in the story you will write one day” – and, after having violated her trust by having an affair and dishonoring it by making it public, decides that she will withdraw from the story altogether, knocking back destroying what she knows he enjoys most: her words. They reconcile after the death of their son Philip in a duel, but it is only after the death of Alexander that Eliza plunges back into the story, not as a passive subject hoping for a brief mention, but as her author.
There are so many things in this moment, including the brief and acute shock of it, a sudden cry that pierces the final of the business Note.
It’s a huge change, Hamilton, despite its scope, is barely equipped to manage. The go-girl feminism of “The Schuyler Sisters” aside (work!), It’s a show in which women are muses and love interests, and sometimes just ballast. Despite the glowing brightness of Phillipa Soo’s performance, Eliza’s role comes down to a variation of what Emma Thompson memorablely summed up as “Please, don’t do this brave thing.” “Who Lives, Who Dies” doesn’t solve this problem, but he recognizes it, and a way of reading the last moment of the show, when Soo approaches the lip of the stage, looks up and lets out a astonished gasp, is like a bursting of the fourth wall, a reminder that there is a world outside the room and more stories to tell. (For those who think it’s already time for history to center characters like Eliza, Hamilton echoes George Washington’s question as to whether the black soldiers who fought to liberate the United States should themselves be emancipated: no. Again.)
Interpreting this last gesture has become an obsession for Hamilton the fans who actually watched the show. In interviews, Soo kept his sense open, saying only that it had something to do with “transcendence.” To me, that looked like a way to permanently shift the focus of the story to the storyteller, because the series survives Hamilton’s death, but it ends the moment Eliza dies; it goes up in the light, and the audience plunges into darkness. In the movie, with the closeness that only a combination of deep pockets and good timing could have offered before, you can see the way Soo looks up every time she sings in memory of her husband, so that when she gasps and, in an exquisite close-up, seems to glimpse something in the light, there is no doubt who it is she sees. Alexander promised to wait on the other side, and as you cross, you can see that he is living up to his word.
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There are so many things in this moment, including the brief, sharp shock of it, a sudden cry that pierces the final score of the company, like the last blip in front of a flat screen heart monitor – and it’s d ‘all the more surprising as you would expect to show to finish as the album does, with the refrain slowly fading in unison. Telling her story was Eliza’s way of keeping Hamilton alive – not just his memory, but the ideals he upheld, even when he failed to embody them. By taking the pen of her jealous rival and writing the story of Hamilton as an act of love – the kind of love where you see your subject’s flaws for what they are – she becomes a proxy for Lin- Manuel Miranda himself, offering a new vision of the United States. history to people who have long been denied their rightful place in this country, and also claim their own place in history. Eliza loves Hamilton as Miranda loves America, embracing her best and struggling to keep her from being overwhelmed by the worst, using her past as a tool to brighten her future. When she finally sees what she’s done, it’s almost more than her mind can handle. But just before the lights went out, his expression went through confusion and fear for something that most resembled joy.
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