Back in 2015, a new musical hit the Broadway stage and became, what most people would consider, the most known modern Broadway show. Hamilton: An American Musical, better known as simply Hamilton, was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton, and tells the story of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. The musical was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda who not only wrote the music, lyrics, and book, but also starred in the show’s original production as the titular character. A year later, it went on to receive 16 Tony Award nominations, resulting in 11 Tony Awards, including the 2016 Award for Best Musical, along with the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Needless to say, this musical became very successful and garnered a large fan base extremely quickly.
So far, the musical has had a 5 year run on Broadway, which will continue once Broadway reopens, a 4 year run in Chicago, 3 North American touring productions, a 3 year run in the West End that will resume in 2021, and 3 more on-stage productions that will start in either late 2020 or 2021 (Los Angeles, Hamburg, and Sydney). After so many stage performances, it should be no shock that the beloved Broadway musical turn to a different performance platform – the silver screen.
In 2016, a stage performance of Hamilton with the original Broadway cast – that is, the principal cast that originated the Broadway production – was filmed over three performances and offered for bidding. Having been bought by Disney for $75 million, the film was supposed to hit theatres on October 15, 2021, but COVID-19 derailed those plans. Instead of being released in theatres, Hamilton is going to be released on July 3rd, 2020 on Disney+, 15 months earlier than the original release date.
The film will account for the entire Broadway production, which means it will be around 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Unlike a live performance however, there won’t be a 15 minute intermission. Instead, there is a one minute intermission between Act 1 and Act 2, but, as it is being offered on a streaming site, you can pause it any time you like.
That is not the only difference that the Disney+ version has with the stage version. As Disney+ is a family friendly service, it refuses to stream R-rated content. There are many things that dictate whether a film is R-rated, one of which being more than one use of the word “fuck” in the film. Unfortunately, Hamilton uses the word three different times throughout the show. As Miranda wanted the show to be streamed, the Disney+ version will have 2 of the instances censored, one being bleeped over and one turning into a record-scratch. In turn, the movie will have a PG-13 rating, allowing it to be streamed.
Of course, the biggest difference is simply that a filmed performance can’t fully replicate a live one. From the trailer that Disney+ released, it is clear that there were a variety of shots during the filming, even close-ups. This ability to truly see all the details of the musical, whether it be the costume pieces, the sets, the hair and make-up, is something that theatre-goers may not be able to see from their seats. On the other hand, something that most people love about the theatre is the ability to connect with the performers during the show. Due to the show being filmed, that joy of live theatre is inaccessible.
Regardless, making theatre more accessible in general is something to look forward to. Depending on the success that Hamilton has on Disney+, we may be seeing more musicals being filmed and offered to the general public at a more affordable price. Whatever the results may be, choose to be in the room where it happens and don’t throw away your shot to see Hamilton: An American Musical.