I never understood the popularity of Hamilton. In my eyes, it was always an overrated piece of theatre that Disney picked up to attract new subscribers to Disney+. However, after watching it, I finally came to an understanding as to why people love this musical so much.
Hamilton is the recorded version of the 2015 Broadway musical. It follows the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his successes and failures alongside fellow founding fathers Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs), George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), and more. From the Revolutionary War all the way to Hamilton’s famous duel, Hamilton provides a peek into history.
Hamilton is packed to the brim with character and charm. It is funny, it is emotional, and it is special in a way that is its own, and that is in no small thanks to its cast. Hamilton’s cast does a terrific job of bringing these historical figures onto the stage. One of my favorites, and one of the best acting performances in 2020, comes from Daveed Diggs in his portrayal of both Marquis Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Although the former of the two was not much more than a minor character, Diggs’s commanding portrayal of Lafayette exploded with personality. In this movie, Lafayette is funny, a great rapper, and whenever he is on stage, he takes control of it. The most outstanding thing, however, is his perfect French accent. Diggs, in the role of Lafayette, manages to do a French accent without sounding stereotypical, and he does it all while rapping 6 words per second.
The cinematography in this movie is very sufficient for practically being a recording of a live performance of the musical. I would imagine that watching the movie version of the musical would be a better experience than being an audience member. Being able to see the actors up close is supplementary to the viewing experience. An interesting detail that the audience would not notice is the grotesque spitting of King George III when he sings. This small detail added to his character and also added some comedy to his songs.
However, this movie is not without its faults. Compared to other musicals, Hamilton’s soundtrack is not as replayable, and does not have a single standout track. The music mostly exists to tell a story, and although acceptable, it would be nice to have a more replayable soundtrack. The bland wardrobe choice of cliché 1700s dress, with long robes and trousers down to the knees, does not add much to Hamilton, a musical that breaks so many barriers. The choreography, which is mostly dependent on a spinning circle in the middle of the stage, becomes bland through its near three hour runtime. Most shots had the characters doing things or dancing, all while the stage spun, making the dance numbers seem overly fabricated and unnatural.
Hamilton is not a musical with grand set pieces or an ensemble cast, but it is one of the better musicals that I have watched. I attribute that to the cast and the incredible storytelling through their songs. This is a musical that is entertaining, has heart, and is definitely worth the subscription and watch.