Author Topic: "Hamilton" on Disney+  (Read 420 times)

Offline perc2100

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"Hamilton" on Disney+
« on: July 03, 2020, 03:26:53 PM »
In Jan. 2018 I saw "Hamilton" live when the tour came to San Diego, CA.  I was fortunate to see this twice when it came to town (long story short: I was smitten w/its brilliance & think "Hamilton" is a master class in song-writing, orchestration, staging, choreography, lighting): you can read my thoughts on the stunning, brilliant musical phenomenon here: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

As you likely know, in late June of 2016, right before creator/writer Lin-Manuel Miranda stepped down from his Broadway creation (and most of the original cast left shortly after), Miranda & the musical director, Thomas Kail, decided to record the musical w/the Original Broadway Cast for....some reason.  They didn't have any buyers or distribution deal, and they seemingly didn't even know what they were going to do with the footage/recording.  They simply knew this was too important to not record for  posterity (and, of course, lots of $$).  Kail decided he would direct the filming, and they brought in cameras, a camera crane, etc. and filmed 2 performances and 1 full-run w/out an audience.

How are the results?

Well, my thoughts on the music, and the technical side of the musical can be read at the link above.  There's no need to discus the meat & potatoes of the musical at this point.  Obviously with all of the original actors who 'created' the iconic roles being filmed after more than a year of performances (8 a week), the performers are _ALL_ at the top of the game.  I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the 'film' (for lack of a better term).

Make no mistake: this is a musical everyone should see, and Disney releasing this on Disney+ feels like a gift to America.  That sounds corny, but we're in the middle of dark, dark times.  Regardless of your personal politics, it's undeniable that we are living amongst massive civil unrest & division.  This was a musical written near the beginning of Obama's first term, when so many things seemed so bright (for many): the first African-American POTUS in our nation's history must've felt like an inspiring time to write a musical about our nation's birth through the eyes of a Founding Father who was an immigrant.  Add the fact the roles are full of diversity: instead of a stage  packed with stodgy white folks we have a story about the birth of our nation through the eyes of a modern lens of color!  It's beautiful, and gives the same sense of awe and inclusion and excitement that it must have when the musical debuted Off-Broadway in 2015 (with most of the Original Broadway cast).

Having the musical Director direct the filming is genius: it seems like a no-brainer, but it would've been easy to higher some big-name film director.  Kail, by this point especially, knew the musical from likely every conceivable angle.  Being a HS music teacher I have some experience with musical productions, and I have no doubt that having worked on the musical for years at that point he had seen performances & runs from every possible viewing area.  He knew where to put the cameras, is what I'm saying.
His direction is inspiring for a filmed-musical.  Often it's "easy" (relatively speaking: _nothing_ associated with a musical or film production is 'easy') to have a couple of cameras + maybe a crane to film a live performance & call it a day.  But Kail also filmed a performance w/out the audience so he could get cameras on the stage: not just for closeups, but for other great effect.  For example, George Washington has a grand entrance.  Well, that's an understatement.  Actor Christopher Jackson has an incredibly _POWERFUL_ entrance, where there is no doubt that 'heaviest,' most iconic character is in the house.  Now, filming the scene ("Right Hand Man") from an audience perspective would be serviceable to capture Jackson amazing presence as an actor.  But Kail is able to start the scene from the back, first showing us Washington's perspective, then we get a closeup of Washington as he delivers his first line, and then we get a wider shot to see him 'strut' down stage.  It's impossible to not feel the hugeness of Washington entering the musical: Miranda and Kail already nailed it writing/directing/staging the scene as-is, but the way the scene is filmed gives it an even bigger heft of respect for our nation's mist iconic leader & Founding Father.

Kail somehow expertly juggles the fine line of making the production feel vast as well as intimate.  You get a great sense of the set (where the background barely moves/changes while scenes are changed with minimal props and furniture) while also being able to enjoy the actors emoting: you feel at times like you're on-top of the production, getting a great view of the lighting & double 'turntables' that spin to create the effect of movement (sometimes together, sometimes contrary to each other), but also get to enjoy Miranda almost in tears singing about the birth of his son.  I'm not usually a fan of filmed-musicals/play production as they mostly just make me wish I was in the audience instead.  In this case, the filming makes this feel more than just a filmed musical run: the camera angles set this apart from a live experience which makes it feel _almost_ like a film.  Visually, this is almost as stunning on video as it is sitting in a theater, with the extra 'addition' of both being able to experience the amazing lighting effects from up-top as well as the character facial expressions and gestures up close.  I mostly got that experience by seeing the musical twice: once from the nose-bleeds, and once from the fourth row; now, anyone can see it from the comfort of their couch!

Another thing that kinda blew me away is the sound design.  I'm incredibly aware of every sound effect, harmony, rhythm, melody, drum beat & fill, etc. of this musical but I still heard some new stuff because of how great the sound mix is.  Of course the musical will likely always sound as close to perfect as possible in its 'home stage' on Broadway, especially with the creatives who designed the show still performing it.  But that doesn't always translate to a 'live' recording.  The layering of harmonies and melodies (for example, in the Act 1 closer "Nonstop" which recapitulates many of the main melodies of the 1st Act by layering them on top of each other) is nearly perfectly mixed, right down to being able to easily tell the difference in all 5 'live' snare drums used by the drummer, as well as the myriad of electronic drums used by the percussionist (I'm a drummer so of course I geek out over the sound of an amazing old-school pre-Civil War era rope snare drum played during King George's first exit, which is then 'switched' out for a great deep-but-not-quite-the-same snare drum used in the next chart, Washington's grand entrance).  I only write my geeking-out about some of the drum sounds in order to underscore how great and crisp the sound mix is throughout.

I don't want to say I'm shocked at how amazingly well-down this is, but I kind of am.  Like I said, it would've been easy to make this a kind of cynical cash-grab (and make no mistake: Disney paid $75 million for this, so the money was theirs for the well-deserved taking) but it feels more than that.  There is so much hope that oozes from this musical, between the big-picture hope for the thriving of a young nation to the more personal hope of Alexander Hamilton making a legit mark on US history.  This musical still exudes all of that hope at a time when our country is at its darkest in awhile (at least, darkest of my 40+ years of life).  It's been hard for me not to be down and cynical the last several months in particular, and this musical gives rejuvenated hope for the future of our country.  It's a reminder of the strife and political division that sprung at the very beginning of our country (thanks to the musical-stealing, absolutely joyful brilliant of Daveed Diggs' 2nd Act portrayal of Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton's most bitter & hated rival in real life - for example, Jefferson had a bust of Hamilton and himself on a mantle in his Monticello estate, facing in different directions because they couldn't agree even after death).  America rose up and thrived back then: why not nowadays?  I look to "Hamilton" as a source of inspiration and hope, and I suspect that's exactly the lens Lin-Manuel would hope his Pulitzer-winning masterpiece is viewed with.

Offline NCDS

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2020, 03:49:54 PM »
I am excited to watch tomorrow
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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #2 on: Today at 08:18:37 AM »

Offline angoradebs

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2020, 06:20:32 PM »
I've seen the show live 3 times (although never on Broadway), and I was amazed at how close the pro-shot got to replicating the live experience (except for cutting out the applause that Hamilton always gets when he first appears). I'm sad that my favorite line got bleeped (but understand). I loved seeing all the little nuances that may be pretty easily missed when viewing the stage show (glances, facial expressions, etc).

I have to say, I cried watching this. Not just because I was moved by the show itself (although I was! Eliza's cry of despair in THAT scene is absolutely gut-wrenching). But the biggest impact COVID-19 has had on my life is eliminating live theatre. I'm lucky enough that I haven't lost anyone to the virus. I've only personally known one person who's even had it. I worked from home for 3 weeks in April but have been back at the office since then (which sucks, by the way, and is terrifying). Everything where I live is pretty normal (ah, Ohio, where no one thinks it's real). I wear a mask in public, as do about 50% of the people I see. And you see a lot of sneeze guards and tape on the floor. But beyond that, literally every aspect of life in my town is pretty much the same as it was in February.

Except theatre. Nothing brings me joy like seeing a show on stage. I attend about 20 shows per year. I'm devastated that the arts have come to a near stand-still with no return in sight. This made me miss it even more. I still love that they released it. I loved watching it. I'm so glad they recorded it and that they gave it to us early. But it still reminded me of this huge hole.

Anyway. Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda, for making this. Thank you, Actor's Equity, for allowing it to be filmed. Thank you, Disney, for bringing it into our homes.

And for anyone who sees this and loves it and doesn't normally "do" theatre, I urge you to support your local theatres when it's safe to return. Hamilton is amazing, and deserves all its praise, but so do a LOT of shows that don't make it into the spotlight like it has.

Offline Miclpea

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2020, 09:56:20 AM »
“Hamilton” is absolutely brilliant!


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Offline alyssa

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2020, 11:12:26 AM »
i was not expecting the personal story of Hamilton, the narrative of interpersonal relations between founding fathers, yes but not the marriage/children part.  Being a parent it really hit me in the feels.
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Offline Jasond878

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2020, 09:55:37 PM »
I echo the parent sentiment, even though I'm a relatively new parent of an almost 1 year old, that side of it really hit home. Just amazing all around!

I decided to check out a classic musical today that I had never seen, The Music Man. I thought it was quite entertaining as well, in a quite different, 1960's style way.

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i was not expecting the personal story of Hamilton, the narrative of interpersonal relations between founding fathers, yes but not the marriage/children part.  Being a parent it really hit me in the feels.
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Offline perc2100

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2020, 10:30:49 AM »
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i was not expecting the personal story of Hamilton, the narrative of interpersonal relations between founding fathers, yes but not the marriage/children part.  Being a parent it really hit me in the feels.
Yeah, part of me thinks that the musical might be called 'just' "Hamilton" because it's _NOT_ just about Alexander.  Eliza factors in so much, especially to the overall theme of "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story."  Obviously the two adult Hamiltons are so intertwined once they meet/get married (which, for those who haven't seen the musical, happens within one in the first quarter of the musical).  I think the argument for including Phillip into the "Hamilton" naming convo is also legit, as his fate leads to so much of the end of the 2nd Act.

Offline perc2100

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2020, 10:44:40 AM »
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I echo the parent sentiment, even though I'm a relatively new parent of an almost 1 year old, that side of it really hit home. Just amazing all around!
Funny tidbit: a lot of people assume Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote "Dear Theodosia" when he found out he & his wife were expecting their first child, since their oldest is kind of around the age that 'story' would work.  It was actually kind of inspired by them adopting their first dog! 
I'm with you though, as a parent myself the father angle of the story really hit home with me as well.  Seeing both my kids do things to make me happy/proud, because they think it's what I'd want them to do, really makes the 2nd Act Phillip stuff resonate (for both good and bad ways - reminder to strive to ensure I solidify the right ideals in them so they don't do more brash stuff).


Quote
I decided to check out a classic musical today that I had never seen, The Music Man. I thought it was quite entertaining as well, in a quite different, 1960's style way.
That's one of my favorites (actually late-50's was when it debuted so even more 'golden' than 60's!)!  The school I teach at did Music Man as our winter musical in 2020; I don't conduct the orchestra and don't do much other than give my opinion on who might be the best players, or how to problem solve explicit music stuff.  It's the 2nd time we've done that musical since I've been at the school, and it's always a joy to see that one: sooooo many great tunes!

My oldest kid saw "Hamilton" with me live Jan. 2018 as a sophomore: first pro musical they saw live (having seen a handful of HS productions).  I think seeing such a brilliant musical live first spoiled 'em for awhile!  Their HS band went to NYC later that spring to perform at Carnegie Hall, and part of the tour was seeing "Hello Dolly," an early 1960's musical.  I can't remember who the big marquee female star was fronting the musical, but it didn't impress 'em: he said it felt incredibly slow and boring compared to "Hamilton."

Offline TardisMom

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2020, 11:00:26 AM »
This article is interesting, and something I didn't know:

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Offline perc2100

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2020, 01:11:18 PM »
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This article is interesting, and something I didn't know:

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Yeah, she's fun to follow throughout the musical!  There's quite a bit more not mentioned there. Earlier, during "My Shot," near the end of the chart she does choreography right by Alexander and Laurens 'protects' Alexander by putting his hand up and 'blocking' The Bullet from getting closer!  After she's killed during the playoff music following "You'll Be Back," (the first cast member do die besides the retelling of Alexander's mom & cousin in the opening number) she kinda becomes the harbinger of death.  Really amazing how layered aspects/details of the musical are!

Another great thing is Maria Reynolds is often 'lurking' in the background shadows (literal off-light shadows) or offstage shadows as part of the chorus in Act 2, as if Alexander's political downfall is lurking/waiting for him to succumb to!

The background vocals of "My Shot," the octave "Whoa Whoa Whoooooooooooa..." are meant to evoke, symbolize the dial-up sounds of connecting to the internet BITD w/AOL!  Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that when he was younger that was the only way to get out of your bubble, so to speak, and out into the world and he wanted to reflect that (he's referred to that as "The AOL Octaves" IIRC).

So. Much. Stuff!!

(also, I'm clearly smitten: as I think I mentioned in a post when I saw this on tour in San Diego I fell in love with this musical on first sight.  I spent close to a year listening to the soundtrack allllll the time, and the last year or so I've been "back to normal" and not listening to it as much; seeing it on Disney+ this past week, especially while spending July 4-7 essentially in bed so I watched it multiple times, I've really been able to dig in to it and notice some of the finer details!  It's awesome the original stage Director also was the film director, so he knew exactly what was important for audiences to see when: what could be left on the outskirts of the frame but still in view for us to find on our own)

Offline jamiesugah

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2020, 05:41:05 PM »
I've listened to the soundtrack dozens of times, but obviously it's better to see the show itself. Some of the lyrics hit differently when you can see the acting choices that go with it. The staging is incredible, especially in "Satisfied". And King George is 1000 funnier.
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Offline perc2100

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Re: "Hamilton" on Disney+
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2020, 11:25:50 AM »
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I've listened to the soundtrack dozens of times, but obviously it's better to see the show itself. Some of the lyrics hit differently when you can see the acting choices that go with it. The staging is incredible, especially in "Satisfied". And King George is 1000 funnier.
Right after I saw the musical I was able to track down a good recording of an Off-Broadway workshop performance so I could blend
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with the Original Broadway Cast Recording (also the play-off music after "You'll Be Back" because I'm kinda a pathetic completionist at times).  Eliza's 'gasp' at the very end, though, isn't on the OBCR and I had kinda forgotten about it when watching Disney+; it's not on the Workshop version/recording either (though there's an ominous chord + percussion sound effect that symbolizes the moment).

FWIW if you can track down the 'Workshop' recording it's really fascinating.  It's has several of the cut tracks, and it's fascinating to hear lyrics tweaked/reworked, timing for lines slightly altered for better flow, etc.  Most of the changes are for the better (for example, "No John Trumbell," a song that essentially sets up "Cabinet Battle #1" by saying 'most people think of the founding fathers in the way John Trumbell painted the signing of the Declaration of Independence but in reality they argued' but the track isn't that great and _really_ kills the flow between "What Did I Miss" & "Cabinet Battle #1"), but some are nice to hear.  The workshop version of the final Duel is very different lyrically, and Alexander's final "soliloquy" is very different: it starts with "10 Things You Need To Know" from Burr's point of view.  When it gets to the "WAIT!" part, the chorus counts backwards back to '1' and then Hamilton goes through the steps from his POV (in the same rap style).  It's so different, it's almost jarring!

The Director & money peeps wanted Lin-Manuel to open on Broadway almost immediately following the off-Broadway run, but Lin shut down for a month to rework it to get it closer to perfect, and it's hard to argue the changes weren't for the best (though after "Reynolds Pamphlet" there's a great song called "Congratulations" which is Angelica lighting up Alexander in such a sharp, beautifully-harsh way)