Available to stream on Disney+ from today ★★★★✩
IT REPORTEDLY cost Disney a cool £60million to acquire the filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton. Given Alexander Hamilton was a money man, he’d be wondering if it’s money well spent.
Well, as it’s highly likely the chance to see the original 2016 Broadway cast rip through Hamilton’s mash-up of history and rap rhythms will drive a legion of theatre-deprived fans to sign up for its streaming service, Disney will be laughing all the way to the bank.
This version, directed from his own stage production by Thomas Kail, was slated for a cinema release. But then the pandemic happened and — to borrow from one of the show’s tunes — Disney were not about to give away their shot.
There’s a world of difference between the electricity of live theatre and watching a musical on TV and, at 161 minutes, there are times when Hamilton feels like a test of stamina. But Kail does just enough with close-ups and details you wouldn’t have caught from row ZZ to bring it alive onscreen.
As a musical it’s packed with energy but probably one or two show-stopping tunes short of a classic. As a production it’s deftly and cleverly constructed — a history lesson that never feels like a lecture. As a period piece it is defiantly of the here and now; its diverse re-casting of America’s Founding Fathers resonating loudly with Black Lives Matter and an inspired example of how colourblind casting really works.
All of which almost makes up for the fact that Alexander Hamilton himself, an ambitious economist with a side-line in adultery, is not, in essence, a very appealing character. But such is the whirlwind of action and sharply scripted political barbs, it’s not hard to see how Hamilton the musical became a bona fide stage phenomenon.
And now, thanks to Disney+ and its big bucks, the hottest ticket in town this weekend is on your settee.