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Five years after its debut, “Hamilton” continues to make history as it is one of the first live performances of a Broadway musical released for online streaming.
At the time of the show’s debut in January 2015, it was revolutionary in the Broadway sphere. Lin-Manuel Miranda created “Hamilton” to retell the story of the Founding Fathers, but with one considerable difference — every leading role was filled by a person of color. One year later, over the course of three performances, director Thomas Kail filmed the show in its entirety.
The finalized film, released on July 3, was initially set to be released in theaters on Oct. 15, 2021. Instead, it was released on Disney+ as all Broadway shows have been shut down until early 2021.
“I can’t think of another work of art in the last decade that has had the cultural impact of ‘Hamilton,’” said Robert Iger, former CEO and executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company during the announcement of the film on Good Morning America. “In these times to tell a story of people uniting together against forces of adversity is quite relevant and quite important.”
In the past, musicals such as “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” have had film adaptations, but the format of “Hamilton” is unlike anything seen before. The film is composed of full shots of the stage along with extreme close-ups of some characters. While the different angles can be jarring at times, there are moments where it certainly enhances the viewing experience.
The film features the original Broadway cast including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Renee Elise Goldberry, and was mostly filmed in front of a live audience at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
There are also a few moments of the show that viewers see for the first time in “Hamilton,” even if they listened to the original cast recording. These moments include Alexander Hamilton, played by Miranda, receiving a letter saying that his friend and fellow soldier, John Laurens, died at the end of the Revolutionary War. Another moment comes from Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton, portrayed by Philippa Soo. Following the death of her and Hamilton’s son, Philip, Soo lets out a harrowing wail of grief.
The release of “Hamilton” on Disney+ is so revolutionary for one main reason — it allows accessibility to those who may not be able to afford to see a Broadway show. While there are video performances of some Broadway shows online, the easiest way to access video footage without paying exorbitant amounts of money to see a show in a theatre is through the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive in the New York Public Library.
On average, a ticket to see a Broadway show costs around $190. That in combination with multiple tickets purchased for a group as well as transportation and lodging, the price to see a Broadway show in New York City is undoable for many working-class Americans. Also, for popular shows like “Hamilton,” tickets have been sold for more than $1,000.
By putting “Hamilton” on a streaming service that only costs $6.99 a month, Miranda and other producers of the film are allowing people who may not have otherwise had the chance to see a Broadway show see it from the “best seat in the house.”