The Hamilton Movie Is a Mesmerizing, Exuberant Delight

The moment Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived the idea of telling the story of Alexander Hamilton almost exclusively with a cast of brown and Black actors was its own kind of big bang. People have tried before to jazz up the story of the founding fathers, with often miserable results (Exhibit A, from 1972: the lackluster film musical 1776). And theater companies have mounted productions of Shakespearean plays and other works from the white, English-speaking canon with casts made up wholly of people of color. But by focusing specifically on the early days of our nation’s fraught history, Miranda affirmed something few people had overtly recognized: That the history of the United States—a country founded by white men who first took land from native people, then built further riches from the labor of enslaved people—belongs to us all, regardless of color. It is ours both to own and to own up to, depending on who we are and who our forebears were, whether we benefited greatly from the status quo or were harmed by it. With Hamilton, Miranda added a swooping tag to the great Woody Guthrie line: This land was made for you and me, because it was made by you and me.

The main problem with Hamilton’s expansive vision—the show was first performed at the Public Theater in New York in 2015, before becoming a nearly impossible-to-see Broadway hit—was that so few people could experience it. But a filmed version of Hamilton now changes all that: Miranda, who also plays the title role, and the show’s director, Thomas Kail, had recorded some 2016 performances at the Richard Rodgers Theater, with the intention of eventually turning it into a theatrically released film. Although that plan has been sidelined by COVID, the “movie” version of Hamilton will be available to stream beginning July 3 on Disney+, and it’s a pleasure—both a delight to watch and a great piece of pop scholarship, an entertainment informed by a sense of history and of curiosity.

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Miranda was inspired to write the show after reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton, and he hews fairly close to fact: The show opens with an exuberant number that tells us, in shorthand, who Alexander Hamilton was—as if to say, There’s no shame in not knowing, but wouldn’t you like to know? The major figures in the life of this brash and extraordinary figure come forward one by one, singing just a snippet of their role in his story, weaving around one another like links in a human chain. They include his sweet but also surprisingly shrewd and resilient wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo); Philip (Anthony Ramos), the son who met a tragic end; and Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Eliza’s sister, who loves her brother-in-law in a way that causes her great suffering. We meet Hamilton’s friends, like the suave Marquis de Lafayette (the fabulous Daveed Diggs, who also plays Thomas Jefferson), and the leader who made Hamilton a trusted advisor, George Washington (Christopher Jackson). And …read more

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Source:: Time – Entertainment

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