REVIEW: Hamilton on Disney+

Mother and daughter sit down to watch the Broadway play Hamilton. (Photo by Jenna Shaw)

For years, I’ve heard about the amazing play Hamilton. The play focuses on the life of Alexander Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers in the building of our nation. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I cared how good it was, because I’m not really a fan of rap music. The idea of sitting through two hours and 40 minutes of spoken music seemed ridiculous to me.

But then, when the opportunity came to watch Hamilton on Disney+, I watched it – all two hours and 40 minutes. I didn’t want to miss a moment of it. The play is amazing and is a must-see. Hamilton has been described as a juggernaut hit on Broadway and is one of the most financially successful plays in Broadway history.

Here are six reasons you don’t want to miss this opportunity on Disney+:

The writing is superb. Apparently, there are over 20,000 words in the play. And, every word is important to the story. Writer Lin-Manuel Miranda spent over seven years writing the play and its music. He says he spent more than a year writing just one song. Miranda won a Tony award for his musical score and also was the lead actor. Miranda is incredibly talented and is the force behind Hamilton.

The use of multiple musical genres is brilliant. Yes, as publicized, there’s a lot of rap and hip/hop songs. There are also show tunes ­­­­­– some will make you laugh and some will make you cry. The music is uplifting, inspiring, and emotional as it tells the story of the birth of America.

The stage set is incredible. Set designer David Korin created the inside of a colonial house under construction, using wood scaffolding and partially-finished brick walls. The construction shows Hamilton’s growing success financially. It also symbolizes the growing foundation upon which America was established. The set is like another character on stage and is an integral part of the story. The stage floor was designed with double turntables that can move independently from each other, allowing opportunity for creative movement on the stage.

Lin-Manuel Mianda playing Hamilton in the movie adaption of the Broadway Play. (Photo by Jenna Shaw)

The costumes are amazing. Costume designer Paul Tazewell chose to simplify 18th-century costumes while also bringing in elements of the 21st. Tazewell chose to focus on the 18th-century style from the neck down, and 21st-century style from the neck up. This cool juxtaposition helps the viewer stay grounded in both centuries. The costumes are also designed to allow the dancers to move and the actors to have quick costume changes in a play that moves at the speed of a sonic jet.

The choreography is mind-blowing. The supporting ensemble of dancers and singers are everywhere on stage for most of the show, playing multiple parts, and becoming part of the staging at times. Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler won a Tony award for his choreography that includes hip/hop, jazz, tap, ballet, and mime. I know––none of that should make any sense in telling an 18th-century story, but it does. Blankenbuehler used the choreography to create the emotion behind the hip/hop dialogue. Every movement on stage has been choreographed. Every. Movement. It’s amazing!

The actors are inspiringly talented. Hamilton’s casting choices have been controversial from the beginning as Miranda wrote the play with a multi-racial cast in mind. The actors, from the stars to the ensemble members, are an immensely talented group that is a treat to watch.

Hamilton is remarkable in every category I’ve mentioned. However, the sum of its parts creates something magical. Hamilton has pushed the boundaries of how to tell a historical story and who can be cast in historical roles.

Hamilton is remarkable. Period. It challenges our assumptions of what should be and proves what can be. Even my son-in-law, a complete nonmusical-theater-fan, was moved by the performance. He enjoyed it. You will, too.

Some critics feel Hamilton falls short of making a strong political statement, especially since the issue of slavery is barely mentioned in the play. On the other hand, Hamilton seems particularly timely at this point in our nation’s history. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton reminds us of who we are meant to be as Americans­­–where every life is important. To quote the play itself: “History has its eyes on you!”

Three disclaimers:

First, obviously Hamilton is designed for the stage and there’s no way any televised edition can capture the complete scope of the production. But, it’s still an amazing production. Enjoy it for what it is.

Second, for history buffs and scholars, don’t expect every historical detail presented to be accurate. A certain amount of poetic license was used to entertainingly tell the story of Hamilton and our Founding Fathers.

Third, Disney cleaned up some of the language, but not all of it. Considering what is usually included in many Broadway plays and movies today, it’s fairly tame.

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