Hamilton (2020) is directed by Thomas Kail. It is the filmed adaptation of the modern Broadway classic with the same name. Lin-Manuel Miranda produces, writes, composes and stars as the lead in this true story about passion, love, satisfaction and legacy. The ensemble cast features Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Digs, Anthony Ramos, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff.
If I lived in America and had the money, I am certain I would be a Broadway-obsessed theatre kid. I am also certain that I would have seen Hamilton by now but alas I am not rich nor do I live in America… or any other country that shows Broadway musicals. That being said I did study English Literature where we delved and tore Shakespeare’s Othello, word for word and over time I came to really appreciate the intricate details and wording he chose. We paid attention to the themes and the motifs and really tore that play apart. Watching Hamilton, I was imagining myself back in class only this time I caught the intricate details myself. I can definitely see this show being studied in classes in the future. It felt like I was watching a classic. I guess what I’m saying is that watching Hamilton reminded me of what it felt like to read Shakespeare. Truth be told I enjoyed Hamilton far more.
Seeing Hamilton, the way it was meant to be seen, (not on bootleg), in the best seat possible with an interactive crowd was amazing. That being said, had I seen this in the room where it happened, I am positive I would have lost consciousness. It is such an overwhelming two and a half hours. I couldn’t really think about anything else that day. The musical takes over you like a parasite. It has only been a couple of days since I’ve seen it and I have already caught myself singing some of the lyrics. It has this infectious energy from the electric performances which are only amplified by the incredible music and dancing. As someone who isn’t crazy about rap, I honestly didn’t think I would like the music. I was incredibly wrong. The blend of rap and hip-hop fused with the theatrical styles of Broadway made for some truly memorable musical numbers. You really can’t help but watch in awe and admire the phenomenon taking place before you.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliance is not the type that evokes a sense of jealousy but more a sense of genuine wonder. While watching the show I honestly kept wandering off thinking how he thought of this lyric or how this melody came to mind. It is the stuff writers and creators dream of. Usually, when I gush about a movie like this, it can easily come off as exaggeration leading people to believe that it’s overrated. The truth is, while I was constantly engaged and entertained, I only really started to appreciate and admire it after it was over. The longer it marinated in my head, the more I loved it. Ironically enough, it took me a good thirty minutes to really adapt to it. Hamilton (2020) may be classified as a movie but in reality, it is a recorded version of the play. It doesn’t behave like a movie and the characters don’t behave like they’re in one either. The way time passes in Hamilton is quite drastic compared to a movie’s linear structure. The music is what glues everything together. The movie is quite literally one musical number after each other and yet I never got bored.
The use of lighting, brilliant choreography and the exceptional score take Hamilton to another level. My favourite scene by far is the musical number “Satisfied”. I won’t spoil too much but we get to go back in time through a character’s interpretation of a scene that just happened. How they achieve that and how they manage to sell and convince me on it truly blew me away. How they choose who to shine the light on, how to move the extras in the background and use them to their advantage to carry a special effect like this. I keep using the word brilliant but I don’t think any other word suits it better. The way they manipulate the beats in the score and incorporate sounds to sell the “rewind” or how they include a ticking clock and a gunshot when things get intense… it literally reinvents what a Broadway Musical could be.
The stellar cast is as much a part of the success as the music. This is a rather larger cast and so there are more than a few stand-outs for me. While Lin-Manuel Miranda is great as Alexander Hamilton, he definitely makes the role his own, I wouldn’t consider him the star of the show. Phillipa Soo’s Eliza Schuyler is the heart and soul of the movie. She has the most to do emotionally and I feel Soo did a wonderful job with the execution. Leslie Odom. Jr is a force to be reckoned with and I am honestly surprised I haven’t seen him in more projects. His voice is insane and I love the dynamic between him and Miranda’s Hamilton. Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Angelica Schuyler is a performance I haven’t seen a lot of people discuss which is shocking considering how much I loved it. “Satisfied” wouldn’t have worked without her insane talent. I would have loved to have seen more of Anthony Ramos but I can’t wait to see him lead In The Heights next year, which Lin-Manuel is also a part of. Daveed Digs’s Thomas Jefferson is also an energetic, almost animated performance which added some much-needed change of pace in the second half. It also goes without saying that Jonathan Groff’s King George III is a highlight of the show. I was already a fan of Groff before but this just made me love him more.
Overall, Hamilton exceeded all of my expectations, you could even say that it was more than enough. The movie doesn’t throw away it’s shot and does the best job possible to translate the Broadway hit into a movie. The insane talent is present at all times and exhibited in a way where you appreciate every move and note. I cannot suggest Hamilton enough, it is going to make Broadway fans out of musical haters. It is an experience you will want to relive many times. In the words of Groff’s King George III, “You’ll Be Back.”