When I saw “In The Heights” on Broadway, I knew that Lin Manuel-Miranda had changed musical theatre as we know it. What I didn’t know is that HAMILTON would literally change Broadway ways I don’t think even its creator saw coming. I’m not a history buff. It was one of my worst subjects, because I was too young and didn’t quite understand how vital and important acknowledging the discretions of the past in order to not repeat it would become. 2020 is one of the most prolific election years in American history…a history that includes Alexander Hamilton.
But, Lin Manuel-Miranda took Hamilton’s life and story making him infamous through rhymes, music and performances that have been permanently etched as Broadway legend. Making history with 16 Tony Award nominations in 2016, Hamilton took home 11 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (Lin Manuel Miranda), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Daveed Diggs), Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Renee Elise Goldsberry), Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Howell Binkley), Best Direction of a Musical (Thomas Kail), Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), Best Orchestrations (Alex Laccamoire) and Best Costume Design (Paul Tazewell).
Disney Plus has provided a global front row seat to this theatrical phenomenon on July 3rd. What can you expect? You can expect to be schooled, emotional and cheer on your sofa for groundbreaking virtual theatre like you have never seen before. Unlike most musicals, I have seen filmed for the small screen, Thomas Kail excels at making this experience as close to the real thing as one can get. Filmed during live performances over weekend performances in 2016, the audience applause, laughter and interaction is captured in addition to the extraordinary performances. The camera uses the black outs to its advantage, the turntable moments work exceptionally better on film and the fact that all action takes place on one set makes you focus on the story and due to the brilliant sound design one can heart every lyric and musical nuance of these performances. Of course, it goes without saying that absolutely nothing can compare or take the place of the magic and energy provided by live theatre. However, this comes pretty damn close.
Lin Manuel Miranda is a wordsmith like no other. Leslie Odom, Jr’s sultry tones turned gruff gives Aaron Burr texture and gravitas. Christopher Jackson is regal as George Washington and displays and exceptional range for the small amount of time he is seen on the stage. The same could be said for Daveed Diggs, who gives you a real distinction between Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson physically and musically. However, the women are getting it in. Renee Elise Goldsberry’s elegance, playfulness and yet strong resilience as the older Schuyler sister makes her unforgettable along with Phillipa Soo as the heartbroken, dutiful, loyal wife Eliza and Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler and the woman who comes between Alexander and his beloved Eliza. Anthony Ramos (who stars in the upcoming film version of IN THE HEIGHTS) in double roles is exceptionally moving as Hamilton’s son.
This was the first time I actually witnessed Lin Manuel in the title role. On Broadway, I was thrilled to watch Javier Munoz and Michael Luwoye in the 1st National tour that hit Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre in 2017. HAMILTON could easily bet watched numerous times as there will always be something new to discover. I did and you will too.