Hamilton on Disney Plus a heartwarming cross between play and TV movie



Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Anthony Ramos in Hamilton. 

Disney Plus

In a much-anticipated streaming arrival, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the Broadway hit you’ve been obsessing about for years but couldn’t get tickets for, is now showing on Disney Plus

Watching the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton from home doesn’t feel exactly like watching the play live with an audience. It can’t fully replicate the spell of a live performance or the excitement of reacting in real time with other viewers in a packed house.

But you can still very much enjoy it. This filmed version of Hamilton was captured at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in June 2016 with the original cast. Stage director Thomas Kail pulls double duty as director of the movie.

Kail delivers on Miranda’s promise of getting you the “best seat in the house.” The play has been shot from different angles in the audience. But it also uses frequent close-ups, offers bird’s-eye views of the whole stage and occasionally frames the scene from backstage. The first time King George (Jonathan Groff) appears on stage, the camera follows him from behind, presenting a backstage view a regular audience member would never see. You can even take in the teardrops on Phillipa Soo’s (Eliza Hamilton) face after a devastating event.

This filmed version of Hamilton democratizes the viewer’s experience, but it’s also hard to forget that what’s been captured here was a play and not a movie. The lighting, costumes, hairstyles and makeup are designed for a theater. Close-ups let the viewer see the microphone hiding on Miranda’s hair, but also his sweat. A regular theatergoer wouldn’t have seen Groff’s spitting from such a short distance while singing “You’ll be back.” And a blue shine illuminates the actors’ faces due to the spotlights lighting the play. All the welcome artifice of theater doesn’t quite find its medium on a TV screen. 

What I’m trying to say is this isn’t the equivalent of Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. Fortunately it isn’t his Cats either. 

But once you’ve acclimated to the idea of this hybrid between a play and a TV movie, you can start relishing Hamilton. And relish I did. 

Back in January, I saw a live version of the show in San Francisco with a totally different cast. I loved it. This second viewing of Hamilton allowed me to relive the experience and appreciate it more. It let me enjoy the…

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