2020, NR, 160 min. Directed by Thomas Kail. Starring Daveed Diggs, Renée Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 3, 2020

It’s a good time to be reminded of the principles America was founded on, and an even better time to reflect on the ways those principles have gone unrealized. As writer, composer, and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda built that tension into his Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about founding fathers Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, et al. cast almost entirely with Black and brown performers. It won 11 Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2015, and it is that original cast on display, lightning-in-a-bottle-like, in this filmed version of the stage production.

Forgoing the planned theatrical release, Hamilton now arrives exclusively on Disney+, a canny move that will surely convert new subscribers. Tony-winning director Thomas Kail – also a chief architect of the jazzy FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon – directed this filmed version, too. It was shot in June of 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater over several performances in front of live audiences; additionally, a third of the numbers were performed without an audience in order to put cameras onstage for close-up, crane, and other more intrusive shots. The bulk of the perspective mimics the one you’d get from the audience – well, from the best seat of the house – which is the appropriate placement to give viewers a sense of the scope of the stage, thrumming with activity. But Kail also knows well when to deploy an alternative view: an overhead shot, Busby Berkeley-style, of the revolving stage and busy ensemble dancers, or a rear-of-stage camera catching from behind King George’s (Groff) seductive entrance to the show’s comic highlight “You’ll Be Back.” It’s the closeups that slay – the quick-witted, crazily charismatic Miranda, landing a punchline as the pugnacious Hamilton; Groff’s micro-expression swerves between courtly, bored, and homicidal; Leslie Odom Jr., as Aaron Burr, history’s most infamous duelist, slowly curdling from jealousy and perceived injustice.

Odom Jr. won the Tony for his performance here, a fact that’s been somewhat dwarfed over the years by Miranda’s tsunamic success, but the neat trick of this filmed version is to time-machine viewers back to an extraordinary moment in American cultural history – to put us, to borrow from Miranda, in the room where it happened. It feels like such a gift.

Hamilton debuts on Disney+ on July 3.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Hamilton
Review: Broadway in Austin's <i>Hamilton</i>
Broadway in Austin's Hamilton
This national touring production doesn't throw away its shot

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 30, 2019

Tickets for <i>Hamilton</i>’s Austin Dates on Sale Now
Tickets for Hamilton’s Austin Dates on Sale Now
Here’s your chance to see the big show

Kimberley Jones, April 8, 2019

More Hamilton
Hamilton's Return Still Lives Up to the Hype
Hamilton's Return Still Lives Up to the Hype
Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash returns to the Bass refreshed and revitalized

Bob Abelman, Dec. 17, 2021

<i>Hamilton</i>'s Resident Director Makes Bass the Room Where It Happens
Hamilton's Resident Director Makes Bass the Room Where It Happens
Austinite Ashley Brooke Monroe leads the touring Broadway show back to the stage she loves

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 10, 2021

More Daveed Diggs Films
Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal astound in this perfect state of the union story

Richard Whittaker, July 27, 2018

Treacly feel-good drama nevertheless has helpful life lessons

Marc Savlov, Nov. 17, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
Gobble Gobble Yada Yada
Gobble Gobble Yada Yada
In this week’s issue: Evil MoPac speaks, holiday shopping begins

Nov. 24, 2023

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
YA epic's prequel can't catch the book's inner fire

Nov. 17, 2023


Hamilton, Thomas Kail, Daveed Diggs, Renée Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Phillipa Soo

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle