On July 3, the filmed version of Hamilton: An American Musical premiered on Disney Plus. The legendary Broadway musical is just as good, if not better, in its filmed glory. Hamilton revolves around the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the United States’ founding fathers. Throughout the show, Hamilton attempts to live a life that will land him in the history books. Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote and plays the title character, while Thomas Krail directed this show. The cast, music, and story combine to create a cultural phenomenon.
The amount of talent in the show’s cast is impressive. They bring the historical figures to life, humanizing them and their mistakes. Broadway casting usually follows racial profiles; however, Miranda ignores these historical figures’ races. Hamilton’s cast shows that race does not need to be a factor in the casting process.
Miranda initially connected to Hamilton’s story because of their shared immigrant identity. Miranda’s parents immigrated from Puerto Rico and Hamilton also came from the Caribbean. In an interview with VIBE, Miranda revealed that he believes telling Hamilton’s story through an immigrant gaze allows the audience to connect with the historical character and his journey. The casting of Black and brown actors to portray America’s white founders was deliberate. By focusing on Hamilton’s immigrant identity when casting, Miranda creates opportunities and representation for marginalized people.
The musical’s storytelling entertains its audience through its use of popular modern music genres. The cast tells Hamilton’s story through singing and rapping. By using Hip-Hop and R&B music, Miranda uniquely evokes his audience’s attachment to the show. Broadway rarely uses these genres; however, they are incredibly popular within the music industry. The show’s modern music makes it interesting because it is exciting to watch as the music flows from rapping to dialogue. The beat within each of the songs transports us to that moment in history, immersing us in this world.
After the filmed version of Hamilton premiered, fans began to debate whether the live version of the show was better. Both the filmed version and the live version are incredible. While seeing Hamilton live is unbelievable because of the room’s energy, the film allows the audience to appreciate every expression on the cast’s faces. Each actor in this show embodies their character, elevating the performance.
Hamilton mentions slavery, but it does not address the injustice Black people faced at this time. The show acknowledges slavery when Hamilton brings up the fact that Thomas Jefferson is a slave owner, while they argue on the Congressional floor, rapping “A civics lesson from a slaver, hey neighbor. Your debts are paid ’cause you don’t pay for labor.” Miranda addresses slavery and opression in other scenes, focusing on John Laurens’ dream of building “the first Black battalion.” At the very end of the show, Eliza also addresses slavery, stating that if Hamilton had more time, he “could have done so much more” for the cause. By only mentioning this system, Hamilton glosses over the racism behind it. The show revolves around white, slave-owning men, disregarding the narratives of people of color who played critical roles in the American Revolution.
Fans of Hamilton began to critique the show on social media once the filmed version aired. In response, Miranda tweeted, “All the criticisms are valid. The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn’t get. Or wrestled with but cut. I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It’s all fair game.”
Overall, Hamilton has flaws, but as long as we are mindful of them, it is still the perfect quarantine must-watch.
(Source: VIBE, Twitter, Disney Plus)