The streaming event of the summer is almost here with the July 3rd premiere of Hamilton on Disney+. The Broadway phenomenon was professionally filmed June 26th through 28th of 2016 with Disney winning the bidding war for the rights to distribute the taped production. Originally scheduled for a summer 2021 theatrical release, Disney gave a rare gift to the world by bumping it up a full year and premiering the film on Disney+ for the low admission price of $6.99 per month. Tickets to the live show are hard-to-get, with audiences often paying inflated scalper prices, not to mention the fact that it’s not even possible to see the show live right now. Get ready to plan a night in, order dinner out from your favorite restaurant, and imagine you’re out on the town for a night at the theater with one of the finest shows ever produced. As King George says in his introduction, “Welcome to the show.”
Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father whose list of accomplishments during his short time on earth are too many to name. Through hip-hop and rap music, the production tells the story of a group of underdogs who overcame the odds to create the United States of America using primarily actors of color in major roles. The show tells Alexander Hamilton’s story from his youth to his death, connecting modern audiences with the life and history of a very important person through the feelings and emotions of his life.
The film starts with a recently recorded introduction from the show’s writer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and director Thomas Kail, who also directed this filmed production. They put the production and the show in perspective of the modern era, pointing out how much the world has changed since the show’s 2015 premiere. It’s nice to hear their thoughts on how the show has taken on new meaning and it allows audiences already familiar with the show to see it through new eyes.
Let’s get the controversy out of the way first, the film is lightly censored. Lin-Manuel Miranda made an announcement that two F-bombs had been cut out and one left in and even though I was consciously thinking about it, I somehow missed the moment when the bomb dropped because it came and went so fast. There are several times in the show where it’s almost said and cut off intentionally and those are unaltered. However, the ones that were cut out are very obvious and each is handled differently. In Hercules Mulligan’s rap, his mic goes silent for the word as actor Okieriete Onaodowan looks up so his mouth doesn’t need to be blurred. Later in the show, an omitted word almost sounds like a record skipping a grove, which plays just as clunkily. And then there’s the one that’s always been censored with a “Beep” for comedic effect on “The Adams Administration,” which sort of makes the previous two feel even stranger.
The edited film uses a mix of footage from a live performance with a real audience in addition to reshot numbers without audience members for closeups and sweeping crane shots. The arrangement of shots make it seem like this is all part of one performance, but there are a few moments where it’s painfully obvious that there isn’t an audience responding. For example, when Jonathan Groff begins his first song as King George, “You’ll Be Back,” there’s no audience laughter until the second half of the song when the camera switches from a tight closeup to a wider shot. Compared to the filmed production of Disney’s Newsies, which gave away free tickets to the taped production where the live performance would stop to reshoot parts of the show with the audience there, Hamilton plays like somewhat of a Frankenstein edit. Viewers who haven’t seen the show likely won’t notice, but diehard fans will find these moments taking them out of the show.
Nothing quite compares to the thrill and excitement of seeing a live performance in a theater where you get to decide where your eyes focus and what you pay attention to. However, this filmed production of Hamilton comes close to recreating the theatrical experience and still gives the same goosebump inducing feeling of seeing the live show. The performances are incredible, the show is the same one that became Broadway’s biggest phenomenon in decades, and as soon as the credits roll you’ll want to go back around and start it over again. It’s also the only way to see the show with its original Broadway cast and for that, it’s easy to excuse any other problems with the edit.
I give Hamilton 4.5 out of 5 points on the gold star logo.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.