Review: 'Hamilton' is an exquisite gift for those longing for a return to the theater

Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton and Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton in "Hamilton," the filmed version of the original Broadway production. (Photo: Disney)

4 out of 5 Stars
Thomas Kail
Writer: Ron Chernow, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs
Genre: Musical, History
Rated: PG-13 for language and some suggestive material

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: The life of founding father, Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.

Review: Filmed at the Richard Rodgers Theatre with the original Broadway cast in 2016, “Hamilton” captures the musical phenomena at its peak. Some may complain that this is the stage version, rather than a grandiose Hollywood production (a la “The Greatest Showman,” or 2012’s adaptation of the musical “Les Misérables”), but I wouldn’t want it any other way. “Hamilton” was written for the stage. Ideally it should be seen live in a theater. Even in non-pandemic times, this isn’t realistic. To bring “Hamilton” to the world, some concessions had to be made.

Initially, the plan was to release “Hamilton” in movie theaters in October of 2021. Thankfully, sensing the void that the pandemic has created, Disney changed course and decided to bring the film to its streaming service Disney+ a year ahead of schedule. A television is not the ideal or even second-best way to see the play, but it is far better than not seeing the play at all.

And what a wonderful play it is.

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Writer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda has crafted a modern musical that combines hip-hop and history. It is lyrically dense and often delivered in quick bursts. Familiarity with the libretto or Hamilton's personal biography isn’t required, but some might appreciate the close captioning option.

The cast eschews tradition by casting historically Caucasian characters with actors from a variety of Brown and Black American backgrounds. This emphasizes the “all men are created equal” aspect of The Declaration of Independence (and yes, we’re waiting for the sequel). For those of us who were unable to see the play during its original run, the opportunity to see Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry in the roles they helped to create is a pleasure afforded only here or by time machine.

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Unlike some musicals, “Hamilton” isn’t built around spectacle. Its signature moment isn’t a chandelier swaying above the audience, a helicopter doesn’t land on stage. Its gimmick isn’t a magic trick. It relies upon its narrative and song craft. Director Thomas Kail, who also directed the stage performance, uses wide and medium shots with fluid pans and unobtrusive edits. It’s workmanlike and perfect for this presentation.

This filmed version of “Hamilton” isn’t as moving or thrilling as the live experience, but it is an incredibly solid approximation.

I've already watched it twice.