Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Hamilton Review

It's been 10 days since Eliot and I joined everyone in the phenomenon of the Hamilton musical.  Like many others, we flocked to Disney+ to experience the film version of the theatrical musical the weekend it was released.  Late in the evening on the 4th of July, we finally sat down to watch... and I was completely captivated for 2.5 hours.

Wow.  Brilliant.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Thought Provoking.  Ear-wormy.  Just... WOW.

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I can't believe that Eliot and I didn't see it sooner.  Now, I really wish that we'd seen it live on Broadway.  I know that someday we will be able to see it live... when the world is right side up again.  And I very much look forward to that day.

Going into watching Hamilton, I didn't know the music.  All I knew about the music was that it was a lot of rap and hip hop and that it might be hard to follow along and catch everything.  But everyone was obsessed with the soundtrack, so I knew it would be good.  I also knew the musical was about founding father Alexander Hamilton.  I knew everyone who had seen it live thought it was amazing... and that's all I had to go on.

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I specifically didn't listen to the soundtrack because I didn't want to ruin anything for myself.  I don't regret this decision.  While there were a few places that I didn't catch what was being said the first time, I quickly committed some of the more popular songs to memory after one viewing.  I listened to the soundtrack and watched the movie again on Monday the 6th while Eliot was at work.  The Hamilton soundtrack has been my go-to playlist since Eliot and I first watched it on July 4th.  Now, even more of the songs are stuck in my head on repeat.

I haven't watched it for a third time... yet.  Eliot's sister Elissa is here with us for the week, so if we have time, she and I might watch it one afternoon while he's at work.  If we don't watch it, I'll definitely be putting it on again next week after she leaves.

Ever since I watched Hamilton, I can't get enough of it.  At this point, Facebook knows about my obsession because it keeps suggesting articles and videos about the history, cast, and story behind the making of the hit musical.  Videos of the cast performing outside of their Broadway theater also keep popping up.  I'm not complaining.

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I knew when I settled into the couch and we first saw the stage that I was going to be hooked.  The seemingly simple stage design transported me back to revolutionary times.  They used simple, historically accurate props, keeping the viewers main focus on the cast, choreography and most importantly- the music.  The stage also had a rotating platform or turntable.  It was used to help move the story along and it brought so much life to the performance.  Finally, I was excited to see more staircases on wheels- much like I the ones in "Frozen Live at the Hyperion" at California Adventure.

The costumes were also historically appropriate.  At first glance, they didn't seem very important but you could easily tell the main cast members apart because of their costumes.  The simple costumes the ensemble members wore made it easy for them to change into different characters- like Revolutionary or British soldiers... depending on where you were in the story.  You could also see how Hamilton grew in importance (and presumably also in wealth) based on his clothing.  It seems so simple, and yet, the clothing choices were also subtly helping to move the story along.

Another aspect that I was impressed with was the choreography.  I had no idea what to expect but it blew me away.  I loved the way it brought the story to life.  The ensemble's dancing was flawless.  The dance style was mostly dictated by the music... and the two were seamless.  The stage turntable and choreography worked together harmoniously as well.  I was so impressed by how well it all came together visually.

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Which brings me to the cast of Hamilton... the original Broadway cast of Hamilton was perfection.  Each of the cast members were perfect for their role.  I completely believed each of them was the character they were portraying and that I had magically gone back in time to witness the founding of our country firsthand.  The casts' voices, acting, dancing... everything just blew me away.  I was also impressed to see such a diverse cast.  I didn't know that Hamilton was known for how it cast African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in the roles of the white Founding Fathers and their female counterparts.  I thought this was brilliant, and it seemed especially relevant that Hamilton was released on Disney+ right now with everything happening in our country.

The story and writing was what impressed me most.  I've since read that it took 5 years for Lin-Manuel Miranda to write all of Hamilton.  It doesn't surprise me.  It was amazing and I'm sure it took a lot of time to get it perfect.  The storyline was pretty historically factual, with a few things added to help with the storyline, and a few things taken out because you can't fit everything from history into a 2.5 hour musical.  The craziest part of all of this is that almost the entire 2.5 hour musical is music.

The entire show is told through the music.  If you listen to the soundtrack, it's 2 hours and 23 minutes long- that's most of the show.  One song flows seamlessly into the next.  The music styles might be different, but they all fit together perfectly.  Some of the songs at the end echo parts of previous songs.  In the end, the entire soundtrack of 46 songs fits together in a gift wrapped box of perfection.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda is brilliant   I've always admired his work, but now I can fully attest to his absolute brilliance.  I should have known that he'd completely blow me away.  I was very impressed with the Moana soundtrack.  I can't wait to see what he does for the live action The Little Mermaid music.  (I hope he continues working with Disney!)

The Hamilton movie has found a perfect home on Disney+.  Disney and Pixar are known for their incredible storytelling- and this fits that model.  The amount of details that make the Hamilton story come alive make me feel like it's a live action Disney movie.  You can feel the love, time and care that was put into creating it.  Disney and Pixar are also known for hiding Easter eggs in their movies, and Hamilton has many little things to look for when you watch it over and over.  (I'm going to have to look into these each time I watch the movie to see if I can spot them!)

Long story short, Hamilton was incredible.  The easiest way to explain it is that, "it's the story of America then, told by America now," as stated by Thomas Kail, the director of Hamilton.  If you like American history, musical theater, amazing costuming, dynamic choreography and marvelous performers- you have to see it.  Even if you aren't sure if you'll like it, it's worth taking 2.5 hours of your life to watch it and find out.

If you haven't seen Hamilton yet, do yourself a favor and watch it.  If you don't have Disney+, go get the free trial.  You need to be in the room where it happened.  °o°

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