“Hamilton” Transcends Time and the Stage

Every now and then, I expand my dialogue about storytelling by going beyond the boundaries of books and out into the mediums of TV and film. I do so by doing these analysis pieces once in a while about a TV show or film that has reached a significant time in its history (i.e. series premiere, series finale, film release, anniversary of a release, etc.). Previously, I did an analysis on Stargirl; a Disney+ original film based on Jerry Spinelli’s YA novel of the same name. Today, I explore another film that was exclusively released on Disney+, although originally, it wasn’t supposed to be, as I give a glimpse at the recording of the original Broadway cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.”

Alexander Hamilton, his name is Alexander Hamilton, and there’s a million things he hasn’t done, but just you wait, just you wait…

So I’m kind of cheating on this. As you might know, last year I finally got to see the theatrical hit that is “Hamilton,” when I saw the And Peggy touring cast perform it in San Francisco. But like many, I never had the opportunity to see the original Broadway cast perform it beyond clips found online, in that documentary made by PBS a few years ago, and when the cast performed at the 2016 Tony Awards.

When I first learned that there was a recording done of the original Broadway cast, I thought it would be something that wouldn’t be released for decades; a time capsule of sorts. That’s why I was surprised when earlier this year, it was announced that it would have a theatrical release in the fall of 2021, only to find out months later that it’s now been bumped up over a year earlier than anticipated, but for release on Disney+.

As swift as the change was, it’s also very understanding. As of this writing, the COVID-19 crisis is still happening. Everything as we know it is still on hold, and that includes both movie and live theaters. We were supposed to get the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel’s first musical, “In the Heights,” this year, and has instead been postponed to next year. On top of all that, the fight to undo a system set up to oppress those in communities outside of white ones is really starting to rightfully heat up, and while the timing of this recording’s release is coincidental on that part, it still proves to be just as timely as when it opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

It’s obvious why Disney chose to release it now: to both give us something to lift us up during these stressful times and to have this continuously timely story echo what we’ve been feeling these days.

This recording was done over the course of three days in late June 2016, shortly before Lin-Manuel left the cast. While admittedly, a recording of live theatre will never beat experiencing it in real life, this one comes close by way of how it was edited, capturing angles that would be impossible to see even if you were watching it in person. The editing is what transmits the high energy of the show onto screens for everyone to see, and that’s maybe the greatest tool for taking live theatre to another place.

Imaginably, a wide variety of audiences are watching this recording. There are people – such as myself – who have seen a production of the show but never the original Broadway cast, there are people who have seen the original Broadway cast perform it and are now reliving that memory through this, and there are people who haven’t seen “Hamilton” at all, with this recording being the first time for them. For a show that began its run on Broadway nearly five years ago, the fact that it still has the same momentum and excitement as it did then is truly fascinating, as new memories are created around it.

I’m glad to have “Hamilton” in my life again. I remember how a year ago, I said that if I had the opportunity to see it again, I would. Little did I expect for that opportunity to be close to a year later. It gives an opportunity for people to see it in such an accessible way than ever before, it gives us a break from the crazier than usual times we are living through, and it echos sentiments that are just as prevalent now as they were when Hamilton was writing like he was writing out of time.

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” -“Hamilton”


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