REVIEW: Disney+’s HAMILTON is an engaging and timely production to reflect on this 4th of July weekend.


Director Thomas Kail’s filmed staged production of Hamilton will make a believer out of those who wondered what the fuss is all about in this vision of early America told with the flavor and influence of the present.

When Hamilton hit Broadway in 2015, it became this monolithic cultural touchstone on Broadway. Starring and written by singer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton tells us the story of future Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, from his start as a bastard orphan who would raise himself up by his bootstraps to soldier, lawyer, politician, the founder of the Federal Reserve and statesman to his ultimate fate; his death in a duel at the hands of Vice President Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.).

There are many reasons why Hamilton works; its clever blend of modern hip-hop and its conventions to bring a seemingly dry story from American History to vivid life for a new audience. One could argue it takes a genius of Miranda’s caliber to pen dueling battle raps about the necessity for Congressional approval for the federal government to assume state debt. But aside from the lyrical brilliance of Miranda’s songs and raps, Hamilton humanizes its erstwhile namesake; a man with principles and ambition, an immigrant who feels the need to prove himself through his accomplishments and an orphan in search of a father figure he finds in George Washington (Christopher Jackson). Hamilton elevates minor historical figures to fully fledges characters, such as John Laurens (Anthony Ramos) and Eliza Hamilton (Phillipa Soo). While the entire cast is massively talented and Daveed Diggs repeatedly threatens to steal the show from under Miranda is his dual role as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, the heart of the piece is the relationship between Miranda’s Hamilton and Odom Jr.’s Burr. Presented as the Salieri to Burr’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the two start on equal ground but Hamilton’s principled stances and ambition contrast to Burr’s unwillingness to take stances and warns Hamilton to not make his opinions to known to others. Their interplay is the modern equivalent to the rivalry between Javert and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables or Othello and Iago in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. It’s the embracing of the conventions of battle raps and hip hop that further drives the energy of the production up, not unlike what Baz Luhrmann did with Romero and Juliet in the 1990s.

But it’s Kail’s work at staging and directing this live production that really makes this production work. Kail’s editing highlights important moments and showcases Hamilton’s impeccable lighting and production design, not to mention truly spotlights the importance of a strong ensemble cast as they seemingly make the abstract real and effortless and build the world of Hamilton. Kail’s experience on filming stage for the screen in productions like FX’s Fosse/Vernon come into play here and he makes the play have scope to match the world-class Tony-winning ensemble bringing their A-game before a live crowd capturing moments that would otherwise be lost only for the live crowd.

Hamilton is also timely. We can see that obstructionist congressional parley and backroom political deals made to bend policy decisions based on “kompromat” aren’t limited only to the now; but also that progressive political ideals are often stifled by compromise to keep the status quo out of fear. Hamilton gives us the perspective that things were bad hundreds of years ago and through work and change, they got better and may do so once again. In that sense, its a reminder that people and their positive actions are what make greatness, not bumper stickers, and empty promises.