The Broadway production of Hamilton has been garnering attention since the writer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, sung its first song at a White House “poetry jam” in 2009. Miranda debuted “Alexander Hamilton” to a standing ovation and an announcement that he was working on a hip-hop album to tell the story of someone who he thought embodies the very genre of music: Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, for those who did not quite pay attention in history class at school, was a founding father of the United States, as well as the Treasurer Secretary during George Washington’s presidency. Miranda took his inspiration from Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton for his story and worked with his former creative team of his prior Broadway musical In the Heights, Alex Lacamorire, Thomas Kail, and Andy Blankenbuehler.
Fast forward a couple of years later and The Hamilton Mixtape, now just shortened to Hamilton, opened as an off-Broadway production with Miranda playing the leading man. The show opened to an enormous wave of support and it was soon clear that this was a play for the record books. Hamilton went on to move to Broadway and scored 16 Tony Nominations (taking home 11 of them), a live production at the Grammy’s, and the love of a nation. It soon opened productions in Chicago, Los Angeles and just recently, Puerto Rico, with two national tours. It only seemed a matter of time the production would soon be available to even more audiences.
Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda stage right.
It’s only a matter of time…
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 12, 2020
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 12, 2020
Disney+ and Miranda teamed up to make it possible for everyone to go to Broadway from their own homes, no fancy dresses or flights to NYC required. As a lover of Broadway, my heart sprung out of my chest, because for me, Hamilton holds a special moment in my heart. Hamilton was part of my senior capstone project in college and helped me really find what I wanted to do with my degree, so getting to be able to finally experience the play is an out of body moment.
From the first moment the opening notes were played, the production reminded me very much of the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats, where there is no dialogue spoken — the entire play is sung. As a lover of musicals, this was the best thing over the production. A true musical, in my mind, does not need dialogue to move the story along, the songs and emotions will do it for you. Hamilton also did something which was very black box theater, which might be a nod to where they first started, where they had one set, one design, and they used moveable props for scene sets.
The production itself was out of this world. It started with a bang and kept the momentum going through the entirety of 2 hours and 40 minutes. The Disney+ version is from the last two weeks of the original cast’s run, and you can feel that they gave it their all. Lin-Manual Miranda embodied Alexander Hamilton as only he could, making the audience fall in love with this “bastard, orphan, son of a whore” as he tells the story of fighting for his country, his spot in the government, and his love story with Eliza Schuyler, portrayed by Phillipa Soo. Soo brings Eliza to life with her soft mannerisms, lending her voice to the story of Hamilton’s wife who goes on to tell his story and defend him after her death. When Soo sings “Helpless” and “Burn,” the audience gets to see her switch from being a love-sick woman to what happens when a man scorns a woman.
Alongside them, Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), Jonathan Groff (King George), Chris Jackson (George Washington), Okieriete Onaodowan (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), and Anthony Ramos (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton) make up the cast who brought these characters to life. With Odom, Diggs, Onadowan, and Ramos breathing life into Hamilton’s four comrades, I almost forgot these were just characters in a play. The chemistry between all of these actors is what made the production incredibly memorable.
Goff as King George was a sight to behold, with his facial expressions and his version of the King of England. He had me laughing the entire time his character was on stage. Jackson brought our first president to life as George Washington and made me want to learn more about his presidency, if he is portrayed to love his country as much as he actually did.
Numerous actors were able to double up on characters. They were able to create two separate personas so effortlessly that you forget it is not two different actors portraying them. A nod to this was Jones, as she embodied the youngest Schuyler sister who did not want to be anywhere near the soldiers in their introduction number and then later on took on the persona of Maria Reynolds, the woman who Hamilton has an affair with and ultimately begins his downfall. Every single of these artists, alongside the ensemble who added only greatness to the numbers, brought the mannerisms needed for the audience to fall in love with them.
Because Hamilton wouldn’t be anything without the iconic songs, those deserve a whole separate post due to the fact every single one of them was phenomenal. Hearing them or singing along to them in your car, shower, living room, etc. is incredibly different to actually being able to watch the performance of them. Every single note, line, and verse, paired with the beautiful choreography, stepped up the level of the musical even further. My personal top three have always been “Burn,” “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” and “My Shot,” and seeing them being performed made me fall in love with them even more. A special honorable mention has to be dedicated to “The World Was Wide Enough,” because this is the moment Hamilton is looking back on his life, on all he has done and how far he has come from being a young immigrant coming to America for a new chance.
The decision to release this production earlier than originally planned (the original release date was set for October 2021) during these unprecedented times was a smart move on Disney’s part, because right now everyone is spending more and more time at home with their families, watching more TV and using streaming services. On top of that, the very basis of Hamilton is a young man rising from the ashes and working towards a bigger goal, to being a bigger and better person. Right now, our world is going through some very difficult times, so being able to take a step back and relish in the world of theater (despite Broadway being closed until January 2021) is what makes it such an escape for so many people. It is world of imagination and creativity, where an immigrant can “grow up to be a hero and a scholar.” For me, there is no better escape than the theater and with Hamilton, the “Wait For It” was well worth it.