A Hamilton first time viewers guide
I am ecstatic that so many people who have not yet had the chance to experience the magic of seeing Hamilton live in the theatre are about to be able to enjoy the entire musical from the comfort of their quarantine. The Hamilton movie was originally set to hit theatres on Oct 15, 2021, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is now going to be streamed on Disney+, for all of the world to have Hamilgasms on July 3, 2020. This is basically the only good thing to happen so far as a result of Covid-19.
Hamilton is incredibly special to millions of fans including myself for many reasons. I moved to NYC in 2002 when I was just 18 because of my love for Broadway theatre and have seen many Broadway shows since. I was lucky enough to see the Broadway production of Hamilton twice (once from the front row after winning the $10 Ham for Ham lottery and once from the very last row) as well as on London’s West End in Summer 2019.
Though some theatrical experiences have come close (including Hadestown& Great Comet), nothing has ever left me 2000% in awe like this show did. It was like the best of every Broadway show ever had been shoved into a bamboo sushi rolling mat and came out as a perfect Hamilton roll.
So, before you hit play on this stream here is a brief history of how Hamilton came to be, as well as my advice for getting the best viewing experience.
Lin-Manuel Miranda became inspired to write Hamilton in 2009 after he picked up and read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamiltonduring his honeymoon. Audiences got the first glimpse of his work on May 12, 2009 at an evening of poetry, music and spoken word hosted by the Obama administration. Here, Miranda performed an early version of the song “Alexander Hamilton” which would go on to become the musical’s electric opening number.
After several more years of production, the musical was finally workshopped in the Summer of 2013 at Vassar College. At that point the first act of the current show was performed, along with three songs of the existing second act. Hamilton hit Off-Broadway on February 17th, 2015 and opened on Broadway on August 5, 2015. The musical ignited like a wildfire that could not be extinguished. The Hamilton craze blazed though America and the rest of the world, making children and adults excited about Broadway, rap, American history and the life of this often forgotten founding father. It also set a new standard for diversity on Broadway for having a full multi-racial cast.
Hamilton went on to win a record-setting 16 nominations at the 2016 Tony Awards (winning 11) as well as the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. Soon the muscial branched out with a production in Chicago which opened in September, 2016, followed by a West End London production that opened in December 2017. The first U.S. national tour began in March 2017 and was followed by two more. In 2019 Miranda famously reprised his role as Hamilton for a three week sold-out run in Puerto Rico.
Hamilton means so much to so many people, including myself. Aside from the best preparation (reading the full 818 pages Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton in one day) here are some tips to help make your Hamilton viewing extra awesome. This show is built on amazing lyrics and they sometimes fly by extremely quickly if you have never listened before. Some musicals are ok to go into blindly, but having a bit of prior study time on the story line and historical material you are dealing with will help you enjoy the film far more.
Your living room is about to become the room where it happens. Pop some popcorn, make some themed cocktails (Hamiltini anyone?), dim your lights and turn up your volume as loud as your neighbors will allow to try and replicate surround sound. Try to watch the first act uninterrupted with no distractions. I can’t say how these will translate to from stage to film, but my two favorite numbers in this act are “Satisfied” and “The Battle Of Yorktown.” They are both some of the best numbers I have ever seen staged in live theatre. Use the intermission to take a break just like you would at the theatre. The best part is you get to pee minus the long lines! Soak in act one and get a fresh cocktail/snacks before entering act two. Also, grab a box of tissues. You’re gonna need them.
Shit is about to get real and depressing, but I promise the journey will be worth it in the end. The character arcs in this act are incredible and though the music is less upbeat than in act one there are some real gems here. “The Room Where It Happens” is a highlight, “Say No To This” sizzles and “One Last Time” and “It’s Quiet Uptown” break my heart every time. Of course, even having heard the cast recording prior to seeing the show, nothing prepared me for how moving the closing number would be. It made me ugly cry all the way through curtain call and leaving the theatre.
Watching Hamilton on Disney+ will be my first time seeing the show with its entire original cast and I am incredibly excited. If you have never seen Hamilton before, I hope you love it as much as I do.