Hamilton on Disney Plus kicks off the summer


Joan Marcus/Playbill

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones in Hamilton.

Audrey Allen, Staff Writer

Hearts in the arts community were filled with joy in the midday hours of May 12th, 2020, when Disney revealed that the beloved hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton”, would soon be released on Disney Plus. Anxious audience members began counting down the days until the long-awaited release date of a professional recording of the production— July 3rd, 2020.

According to Playbill, the production of Hamilton first hit the stage in 2015 in New York at the Public Theatre, and after more shows on its off-Broadway run, it finally reached Broadway on August 6th, 2015. “The production earned 16 Tony Award nominations, winning 11, including Best Musical,” wrote Playbill. The production influenced not only the typical musical theatre audience, but also families worldwide. 

Hamilton, a musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, produced by Jeffery Seller, and directed by Thomas Kail, is a sung-and-rapped-through musical that focuses on one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, and his journey to preserving his legacy. The story provides an inside look at his life from his arrival in the United States as a teenager to his well-known death in a duel, through events (although there were historical inaccuracies) such as his affairs and his deepest secrets. The show is jam-packed with songs and dances that are bound to get audiences to immerse themselves in their favorite characters on stage. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in the Broadway production of Hamilton. (Variety)

Anna Lehrer, a University of Michigan sophomore, says that she was extremely impressed with most aspects of the show, especially the actors. “I genuinely thought they were all phenomenal.” She comments on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s role directly, saying, “He is an extremely talented writer and actor.” This show is unique in so many ways—one being that the writer of the show is also the star! 

Something viewers pondered was if the production on film would give justice to the authentic and raw nature that is live theatre. Depending on the seating arrangement, it allows audiences to view the entire stage, as well as the entire show. There are both positive and negative aspects to live theatre. CultureCase states, “Those who see performances in the cinema are both socio-demographically and culturally more similar to theatre audiences than to typical cinema audiences. Conceivably, streaming might reduce the size of the market for theatre and opera, as audiences who would have seen the live show simply opt for the (cheaper) streamed performance instead.” Lehrer says that “the way in which the show was filmed made it seem probably as close to live theatre as you can get through a screen, but it also left way to notice [the] smaller details in the character choices.” She explained the advantage of having the production on screen— it means a front row seat every time. Luckily, for MHS sophomore Ben Mondrush, he had the opportunity to see the live production of Hamilton in Chicago. He explains, “Honestly, I prefer the play, because you can see the entire stage at all times… I wasn’t disappointed by anything in the film and I thought it did the stage production justice.” One thing that is historically inaccurate is that almost the entire cast is not white. This “race blind” casting shows the story of America then, told by America now. There is much debate on how accurately the film represented the stage production, with most believing the film did an incredible job of painting the pictures and telling the story of Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers. This comparison that many viewers are making can change their opinion of the show drastically. 

Lehrer explains she has “a better view of the show… it by far exceeded my expectations and I now listen to the cast recording regularly.” According to Variety, through the weekend of its release date (July 3rd, 4th, and 5th),the Disney Plus app was downloaded 752,451 times globally, including 458,796 times in the U.S., according to analytics firm Apptopia.” Disney has not released official data on the actual amount of viewers, but it can be seen that popularity and overall viewership skyrocketed in July 2020. 

Several of the original cast members of Hamilton applaud for Lin-Manuel Miranda during his final bow. (Minnie Wright/RadioTimes)

Some believe that the production of Hamilton should be streamed on other platforms, not just Disney Plus. Mondrush believes that “Disney [will] most likely keep it for themselves”, and he agrees with Lehrer when saying, “I would love to see Hamilton appear on other platforms…if putting it on more platforms is a way for more people to see it, then I’m all for it.” Mondrush has a point: Disney being the only available platform for streaming the show allows it to make tons of money off of eager viewers taking part in the newly formed hype for the show. 

In general, reviews disapproving of this production being offered to stream are seldom seen. It is a hard task incorporating the real emotions evoked during a live performance, and yet, many viewers believe the Hamilton film did the hit Broadway show justice. With the combination of the videography, sound, lighting, and stage actors, this production was astonishing, to say the least. The best way to enjoy the glory of this production (in the circumstances right now) is to grab the popcorn, your dancing shoes, and enjoy your all-access pass to a front row seat to Hamilton on Disney Plus.