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Hamilton-- the musical super hit now for on screen viewing
By Elyse Sommer
We all need good news and something to take us into another world for a little while. Short of a miracle that will turn the nightmare we've all been living into a bad dream, the film version of Hamilton the blockbuster musical that proved the golden era of great musicals was not past history, is just your ticket — and that ticket is just $6.99. Every seat is right near the stage.
The really good news is that this filmed production has been put together with such sophistication and skill that the experience of watching it on screen is a breathtakingly stimulating experience in its own right, not second best to being in the same room with the actors and other audience members. In short, the movie is not a place holder until the theater can reopen but a chance to understand why the show won award after award (including the Pulitzer) and was indeed a monumental achievement — an epic history lesson, that combines the sound of classical musical hits, but with hip-hop lyrics.
As the stage production exemplified the power of collaboration at its best, the team from the original production and the filming experts have now merged their skills to make filming live shows as innovative as Hamilton was. I wish I could compare it to our current legislators reaching across the aisle to get things done.
Since I was lucky enough to see the original production before it opened officially, I'll admit there's nothing to match the thrill of being there history at the birth of a show that will not just become a big hit but will make musical theater history . But, whether you're seeing Hamilton again or for the first time, this smartly filmed production is a not to be missed two and a half hour visit with our forefathers.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's book closely followed Ron Chernow's biography of our first Secretary of the Treasury — except that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Director Thomas Kail ingeniously had these historic figures represented on stage by actors looking as they might have if the men who fought for America's independence from England and wrote the Constitution hadn't all been white men, some of whom actually owned slaves. That cast innovation began with Mr. Miranda, who himself has roots in Puerto Rico and played the title character originally and came back on board for the move. What bowled me over about the stage version still applies, so click over to my original take on the show when it moved to Broadway and when I saw it at the Public's Newman Theater, which includes a song list here.
Seeing it again in its present format makes for an immenslely enjoyable diversion that's more relevvant than ever. Having the original cast on your home screen makes it a special treat. But, of course, given the show's enduring power to be produced (shades of West Side Story and Oklahoma), it will be mounted with many other casts as was the the London production reviewed for Curtainup by Lizzie Loveridge (review).
As for the Schuyler sisters, both of whom love Hamilton, the scene in which their sisterly devotion makes the terrific Renée Elise Goldsberry's Angela step aside for her sister Eliza (Phillipa Soo) lets us really see her anguish. It almost compensates for her not being on stage often enough. The also terrific Phillipa Soo is now even more heartbreaking, thanks to the camera's zeroing in on her when she must contend with anger at his infidelity and grief over the loss of their son.\
One of the many things that made Hamilton so special was the cleverness of the lyric iwhich took rap to new heights. The lines linking hip-hop to traditional musicals are wonderfully effective-- for example, Burr 's advice to the young hamilton (I'm with you but the situation is fraught/ You've got to be carefully tsught), and George Washington introducing himself as "a modern major general."
Since the lyrics come so fast and furiously, viewers may want to backtrack and replay some scenes, perhaps with the captions turned on, another big plus of this style of theater-going What's more, viewers who want to see a show they loved again, must ante up the money for another ticket — if you can get one. Not so, once you become a Disney channel subscriber.
Even when live theater comes back, this high-quality archived production is likely to continue as the way, not to replace seeing a show live, but to enable the theater community to connect with the demographic that has for a long time eluded them. .
Finally, a word about the current outcries about racism, economic inequality. A story about an immigrant who wanted, and got, his shot at living and thriving in a new country does indeed echo the plight of people not being given their shot nowadays. Granted that Hamilton created the economic system that has been better for the rich than the poor. But these founding fathers were all complicated men. Chernow's book spent more time on Washington's being a slave owner and Miranda merely touched on it with a reference to it and a fleeting appearance of Jefferson's never freed lover, Sally Hemings. But hey there's just so much you can pack into a show that must always dance and sing, dance and sing.
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Hamilton Book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Based on Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Directed by Thomas Kail
Produced by Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Seller
Cast: Cast: Daveed Diggs, Ren ée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie m Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo, Carleigh Bettiol, Ariana DeBose, Hope Easterbrook, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Elizabeth Judd, Jon Rua, Austin Smith, Seth Stewart, Ephraim Sykes
Cinematography Declan Quinn
Director of photography: Declan Quinn
Production designer: David Korins
Costume designer: Paul Tazewell
Lighting designer: Howell Binkley
Sound designer: Nevin Steinberg
Editor: Jonah Moran
Choreographer: Andy Blankenbuehler
Music supervisor and orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire
Arrangements: Alex Lacamoire, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Edited by Jonah Moran
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures, 5000 Broadway Productions, Nevis Productions, Old 320 Sycamore Pictures, RadicalMedia
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictureson July 3, 2020
Running time: 160 minutes
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