Hamilton is a must-watch on Disney Plus

Hamilton (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
Hamilton (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions) /

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is now available to stream on Disney Plus

Disney+ is releasing the filmed taping of the original Broadway production of Hamilton on July 3, coinciding with Independence Day weekend.

Hamilton is assembled from various tapes of performances from the original cast production at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in June 2016.

You should stream Hamilton on Disney Plus over the Independence Day weekend, and if you don’t have a Disney Plus subscription already, you should buy it to watch the movie.

According to Deadline, Disney purchased the rights to the Hamilton film for $75 million (!) revealed soon after they announced their intentions to release the movie theatrically in fall 2021. But this May, the company fast-tracked the premiere to July 3 of this year to offer a bright light in the rather opaque waters of the world in which we currently tread.

Leave it to Hamilton to lift our collective spirits. For those of you who started getting into, I guess, culture in 2019 or later, allow me to provide a crash course on the definitive theater production of the last decade. Once upon a time, Lin-Manuel Miranda, theater creator and actor extraordinaire, began a project entitled “The Hamilton Mixtape,” stemming from his interpretation of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton.

After developing within college rep workshops and a particularly bold preview at the White House in 2009, the idea snowballed into a sung-through book musical that ran an Off-Broadway engagement before moving to the Great White Way on August 6, 2015. It only exploded from there.

Hamilton took on pop culture by storm, its recognition weaving beyond theater crowds and into the common lexicon. Hamilton demanded to be listened to, seen, and witnessed by everyone.

Since Rent, no Broadway sensation had become a household name so powerfully. By depicting name-brand white people from history as characters of color, seamlessly introducing rap to Broadway, and making the typically-seen-as-arduous process of learning about United States history modern, familiar and catchy, it shed light on the past, present, and future of both musical theater and America.

Hamilton was (sorry) non-stop. It won Tonys, a Grammy, a Kennedy Center Honor, a Pulitzer, and numerous other awards. A book, PBS Special, and museum exhibition all explain how the magic of the show came to be. My family, friends, and I know its lyrics and melodies, and I even personally discount lists of the best recordings of the decade that don’t include the thorough and singular cast album.

Beyond its immediate textuality, Hamilton and its casts and crews had no qualms interacting with the happenings of the mid-to-late 2010s as they progressed. For instance, the character of George Washington, who serves as a mentor and father figure to the character of Alexander Hamilton in the show, is typically seen as an implicit surrogate for President Barack Obama, signified especially through the cast’s 2016 White House appearance.

The show’s casting requirements, stances on race and immigration, and celebration of minority culture are also often contrasted with its relation to its audiences, most of whom were white. This aspect of the show’s rep adopted a personality all its own, commenting reflexively on many of the issues Hamilton‘s diegesis addresses. As its popularity spread, ticket prices skyrocketed, and consequently, the show has been criticized (and satirized) as being most accessible to affluent audiences. Furthermore, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance, the cast addressed him directly, expressing their anxiety and alarm with his then-upcoming administrative policies, prompting an acerbic reaction from 45 on Twitter.

It can’t be denied that Hamilton serves as a layered dissection of American culture, history, and theater, a hot-ticket event for the ages that has garnered near-universal acclaim and is still seen as a dominating force of good. Thus, Hamilton’s return to TV screens on July 3 is kind of a big deal.

The timing of its release on Disney Plus could not be more poetic. Hamilton drops on the weekend of July 4 – a theatrical celebration of American history coming to people’s screens during the aptest time to celebrate America’s history. The show recontextualizes the definition of being American, something that we as a nation are understanding, accepting, and hopefully broadening more and more, especially in the past month.

Because Hamilton may no longer be playing in headphones as regularly across the world anymore (I’ll be the first to admit that while it’s my favorite musical ever, it’s hard to listen to individual songs as they come up on shuffle), now might ironically be the perfect time to revisit it. You’re quarantined on a holiday weekend, you’ve forgotten some of the important motifs and musical phrases and lyrics that you used to love, and it all comes rushing back when you hear the first F sharps – what could be better? Furthermore, a resurgence of Hamilton hype fits rather snugly into the current cultural emphasis on nostalgia IP (see Stranger Things, Fuller House, movie and TV reboots, etc). Disney knows this, and so should you.

Which brings me to my final point: the Hamilton movie is a humongous boon for Disney Plus. The streaming service already boasts one of the most extensive, family-friendly catalogs online with new and old things to watch abound, but if you’re like me and haven’t subscribed because you don’t need it and you’re sure you can figure out how to plug the VCR into the TV if the quarantine desire to watch old tapes of Disney movies ever comes up (apologies to Gen-Z), Hamilton is undeniably the most urgent reason to punch in those credit card digits – it should be if it’s not already.

Disney+ has certainly capitalized on its IP recognition as a key selling point, going more or less all-out with their marketing in the past week and a half. Foregrounding the show’s most optimistic qualities is clearly intended to operate contrapuntally to the ever-deviating atmosphere of today’s society. The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones reflects on how the lyrics’ unwavering arguments for the prosperity of love, life, and the pursuit of happiness seem more untenable than perhaps ever before. How Hamilton‘s drop on streaming gels with today’s audiences remains TBD – I hope it can bring us together.

Miranda said it best in the press release for the film’s premiere on Disney Plus, describing it as the opportunity to pay $6.99 for what would have been $500 or more in 2016, in theory giving “everyone who watches this film the best seat in the house.”

The world may be turned upside down, but just you wait (sorry again): Hamilton will help nudge it right side up. If you have Disney Plus at this very moment or not, I’ll see you in the audience on Independence Day Weekend.

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