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Review Roundup: Find Out What Critics Thought of HAMILTON on Disney+ - Updating Live!

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Were the critics satisfied?

Review Roundup: Find Out What Critics Thought of HAMILTON on Disney+ - Updating Live!

In just days, the world will get to tune in for the phenomenon that is Hamilton, when it arrives on Disney+. The critics however, have already gotten their shot at the new film.

An unforgettable cinematic stage performance, the filmed version of the original Broadway production of Hamilton"combines the best elements of live theater, film and streaming to bring the cultural phenomenon to homes around the world for a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hamilton is the story of America then, told by America now. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, Hamilton has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre-a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics, and education.

Filmed at The Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in June of 2016, the film transports its audience into the world of the Broadway show in a uniquely intimate way.

Find out what critics thought of the film before it debuts on Disney+ this Friday and keep checking back as more reviews are added!


David Clarke, BroadwayWorld: Watching the streamed film, I found myself pondering the legacy of Hamilton. This musical and this cast blew doors open, forcing theater fans, producers, directors, casting agents, and the world alike to reassess their beliefs of who could portray whom on stage. Watching Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, and more never felt anything less than natural. I never once found myself thinking, "But in real life, these people were white." Therefore, I can only hope that the conversations about hiring creatives and casting actors and actresses of color that Hamilton engendered are still being had and that the entirety of the theater community is benefiting from them.

Peter Debruge, Variety: Seeing "Hamilton" on screen, as opposed to from a fixed seat in a high-priced theater, is a completely different experience. While there are many who've worn out the official cast recording in anticipation of their first viewing, plenty among the Disney Plus audience will be coming to "Hamilton" having had zero exposure to this Tony and Pulitzer blessed phenomenon. For them, the movie lacks some of the excitement of discovering the show on stage - the collective electricity that passes through a crowd energized to see so many conventions upended at once, all in service of American history. But it compensates by taking them into the proscenium itself.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: In the show, Miranda's line: "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?" was a plea to put Hamilton back into the history books, to reclaim this lost Founding Father. The genius of "Hamilton" is unchanged - how history remembers and changes. But in 2020, the question of how we tell stories has shifted in meaning. Who tells our story? That would be white people - and the show's lens might scramble the deck but it's still about elite, white males. "Hamilton" once asked us to look again at the birth of America, but it's hard not to think that it may soon face its own kind of reckoning.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The art of the filmed performance has evolved considerably since the days when a camera or two were plonked down at the rim of the stage and the show unfolded as a static theatrical facsimile. Since staging Hamilton, director Thomas Kail has been sharpening his skills on television work like Grease Live! - still by far the best of the recent spate of live TV musicals - and Fosse/Verdon, a striking hybrid of theatrical performance and conventional narrative.

Justin Chang, LA Times: Of all the dazzlingly articulated sentiments in "Hamilton," few may sound more incongruous right now than that one - or, paradoxically, more fitting. To be a living, thinking American in 2020, during a health crisis that has claimed thousands of lives and may claim many more, is to experience a strange commingling of relief, horror and guilt. To see a nation protesting (again) the destruction and oppression of Black lives is to be flooded with disorienting bursts of despair and hope. We live in a contradictory moment, and "Hamilton" - a joyous synthesis of popular culture and people's history, a utopian vision of equality set in profoundly unequal times - is nothing if not animated by its own contradictions.

Matt Goldberg, Collider: When you're watching Hamilton performed, the whole picture comes into view. It's not just the beauty of Miranda's musical and story, but everything that makes stage performances so immediate and vivacious. We can see the nuances of the actors' performances. We can see the gorgeous choreography. The lighting is immaculately constructed. Everything comes together where you realize that it wasn't just the outstanding book, lyrics, and music that made Hamilton a sensation or even casting actors of color to play white historical figures. It was everything coming together to make this a masterpiece and one of the finest musicals of the 21st century.

David Ehrlich, IndieWire: For the most part, it's as if someone stuck a few well-placed cameras around the Richard Rodgers Theatre during a regular performance, and then edited together the results for posterity... in that it's literally what Kail did. And it's also the essence of what fans would want. But the bits that don't fall under the "for the most part" umbrella are what make this "Hamilton" more than just a photographic memory. Better than a front-row seat, Kail's film - and we can basically call it that - is just cinematic enough to amplify and accentuate the show's emotional undertow without messing with the carefulness of its stage direction. Close-ups might seem an obvious choice for this sort of thing, especially when shot at a distance so as not to break the proscenium of the stage, but they're used sparingly enough to puncture the spectacle of it all with a real sense of purpose.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Live stagings of "Hamilton" will return. But there is, in this experience, the feeling of a period being dotted, of a moment in American time being preserved for the future, of the final hurrah of an incomparable theatrical renaissance that exploded before being suddenly silenced.

Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune: By capturing the play as performed, the movie gets so many details that would be otherwise lost: the physical comedy when Miranda's Hamilton challenges a hapless orator to a debate; the swagger when Hamilton and Burr consider which Schuyler sister each might seduce; or the practical split-screen of Hamilton and Burr each contemplating new fatherhood during the lullaby "Dear Theodosia." Through the close-ups, Kail neatly dissects the play's trickiest numbers, like the Act I finale "Non-Stop," to weave through multiple characters without interrupting the flow of music and movement. The onstage camerawork also captures the sly dealing Hamilton must engage in in "The Room Where It Happens," Jackson's soulful gravity as Washington, and even the spittle coming out of the mouth of mad King George III (Jonathan Groff).

Megan O'Keefe, Decider: The flaws in Hamilton are small and slight, but since Kail's camera zooms in on a million new details, fans may spot them with more ease. What fans may also spot? New wellsprings of inspiration in a show that once seemed to be a love letter to the Obama era. When Hamilton premiered on Broadway, it felt like a repudiation of a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment and a promise that America would continue to push forward towards progress. (Seeing Christopher Jackson belt "One Last Time" weeks before the 2016 election remains a goosebump-inducing experience years later.) However, in 2020, other parts of Hamilton bubble to the surface, asserting their weight. In Act I, young Hamilton bonds with his friends over the need for revolution. Their words - particularly John Laurens's emphasis on abolition - take on new power today. Hamilton is as much about rebellion as it is about anything else.

Brian Lowry, CNN: So where are the drawbacks? Chalk them up as quibbles: Watching at home, the audience response can at times be a trifle distracting. Ditto for some of the lighting, which, as captured, occasionally casts an eerie blue glow onto the performers. Beyond that, sit back, relax, mute your phone and enjoy the show, which runs two hours and 42 minutes (including a one-minute "intermission"). Bringing history spectacularly to life, Miranda's dazzling mix of musical genres presents the triumphant and tumultuous life of Alexander Hamilton, the founding father whom he portrays.

Angie Han, Mashable: Revisiting Hamilton now, with the benefit of distance, it becomes more possible to see both its flaws and its strengths. (Or perhaps it's more accurate to say it becomes possible to see them again, since they were always there and always noticed, but tended to get flattened into rants that painted Hamilton as the best thing ever or the worst.) I'd forgotten, for instance, the extent to which Angelica, one of the most compelling characters in Act I, is sidelined in Act II, and I'm not sure I had ever fully realized how close Miranda comes to being overshadowed by the even more ferociously charismatic Odom.

Alex Wood, Whatsonstage: This is a special occasion for any musical fan - seeing those who originated each of the principal roles in the show, which follows Alexander Hamilton as he arrives as a penniless immigrant and emerges as one of the most important men in US history, from the comfort of your own home, or streamed on your smartphone. You might never have been in the room where it happened back in 2016 when it was recorded, but now you get the next best thing (and for a fraction of the price).

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times: It would be impossible for "Hamilton" the movie to replicate the experience of seeing one of the greatest of all musicals in a live theatrical setting, but the filmed version of the Broadway sensation makes for immersive, exhilarating, magnificent cinema, almost sure to thrill first-time viewers as well as diehard fanatics who have seen the stage production once or twice or a dozen times.

Rafer Guzmán, Newday: The movie ably captures everything that has made the play so highly acclaimed, from the rhythmic hip-hop dialogue that resonates like 21st-Century Shakespeare to the delightful cognitive dissonance of watching actors of color play ultra-white Americans. Miranda shines as Hamilton, a man of high ambition (if not infallible judgment) determined to play a part in an unpredictable experiment called America. Leslie Odom, Jr. i terrific as Aaron Burr - the cautious Salieri to Hamilton's bold Mozart - while Daveed Diggs nearly steals the show as a cocky Thomas Jefferson in a purple frock coat (think Prince as a Founding Father). Phillipa Soo, as Hamilton's wife, Eliza, gives the show an emotional center that helps it from becoming solely a clever retelling of history.

Roger Friedman, Showbiz411: Prepare for a two hour, forty minute ride. You can't look at your phone, or take long breaks or even wait and "see the rest of it tomorrow." For one thing, it's impossible. Your are drawn in from the first minute and there is no backing out. Make sure the dog is fed and walked, the babies are asleep, the ovens are all off. You do not want to be interrupted.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: Filmed theater inevitably loses something in the translation: that electric sense of human energy, the ineffable appeal that actors make, as they reach out to you, and seemingly only you, beseeching your eye and your approval. But Kail, who won a Tony for his direction of the Broadway production, finds other means of expressing the intensity of the "Hamilton" experience, through close-ups and overhead shots and a camera moving through ensemble numbers like a rush-hour rider through a turnstile. (Kail supplemented the live footage with onstage cameras when there was no audience present.)

A.O. Scott, New York Times: The opening scenes of the filmed version of the Broadway musical "Hamilton," which starts streaming on Disney Plus on Independence Day weekend, pull you back in time to two distinct periods. The people onstage, in their breeches and brass-buttoned coats, belong to the New York of 1776. That's when a 19-year-old freshly arrived from the Caribbean - the "bastard, immigrant, son of a whore" who shares his name with the show - makes his move and takes his shot, joining up with a squad of anti-British revolutionaries and eventually finding his way to George Washington's right hand and the front of the $10 bill.

Steve Pond, The Wrap: "Hamilton" was filmed on the stage of the Broadway theater where it played; most of it was shot with an audience in the seats, though several songs were also filmed in an empty theater. It is a document of the stage show rather than an adaptation of it - a safer way to approach a sacred property like "Hamilton," and one that fits on the Disney+ TV format, but also one that can't transcend its origins.

Johnnny Oleksinski, NY Post: You might be asking, "How can you judge 'Hamilton' as a movie but not use the same criteria for other taped theater productions like 'Live From Lincoln Center: The King and I'?" Well, Disney, Hollywood's cackling megalomaniac, did not drop $75 million on "The King and I" with pandemic-thwarted hopes of a lucrative theatrical release on a scale we've never seen with a filmed stage show. Millions of people will watch this.

Brian Truitt, USA Today: Every character has a vibrant quality. Imagine James Brown as Thomas Jefferson - that's the showboating take created by Daveed Diggs, who also manages to imbue a second character, Marquis de Lafayette, with authentic rhyme-spitting soul. Leslie Odom Jr. makes Hamilton's rival and frenemy Aaron Burr an antagonist you care as much about as Hamilton himself. Every time the Schuyler sisters (Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Sephas Jones) appear, it's a showstopper. "You'll Be Back," a "love" song by the irked and flamboyant King George (Jonathan Groff) to the rebellious American colonists, is the peppy and psychotic showtune you never knew you needed in your life.

Linda Holmes, NPR: One reason to watch the film is to better appreciate the acting. Close-ups of theater actors can be a little distracting because acting for theater is sometimes exaggerated for the benefit of an audience that's far away. When you see it from a foot away, it can look a little much. (Miranda is probably the performer who's most negatively affected by that problem in this film. Well, Miranda and Jonathan Groff, whose tendency to spit is legendary. You shall see.) Fortunately, in most cases, the opportunity to see the actors up close brings out nuance and performance choices that aren't discernible on the cast album and wouldn't even be fully obvious live. Phillipa Soo, playing Eliza, brings great warmth to some scenes that could be hard to take given the long-suffering nature of the character, and you get more of that when you see it up close.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: This production carries the distinct advantage of the unique talents of the show's original cast, many of whom had worked with Miranda before and whose individual skills were shown to great advantage. Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry are superb as the Schuyler sisters, who both fall for Hamilton (in memorably harmonic ballads). Daveed Diggs has a flair for comedic energy in his dual roles as Marquis de Lafayette and a slightly ridiculous Thomas Jefferson. Jonathan Groff, the rare white actor in the cast, nearly steals the show as England's King George III, whose bouncy British-pop numbers hilariously evoke royal hauteur.

Marianka Swain, iNews: Kail's fluid camera work matches the show's constant flow; rather than elaborate sets, it's the hard-working, Andy Blankenbuehler-choreographed ensemble who form the backbone, evoking everything from an army to a hurricane. They even add dramatic heft to an approaching letter. But that's Miranda's masterstroke: not just showing the duels and sex scandals, but making Hamilton's writing about the constitution and states' debts somehow cool, accessible, even spectacular.

John Anderson, Wall Street Journal: The room where it happens is now in your house, as long as you're a subscriber to Disney+, where a filmed version of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning "Hamilton" drops on Friday. When it opened at the Public Theater in New York in 2015, Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout called the smash-hit-to-be "the most exciting and significant musical of the past decade." Has that changed? No. Is the Disney+ "Hamilton" the same as the theatrical experience? No. But the streamed version does offer something that no walking, talking ticketholder could see, even if the entire theater world weren't pandemically shuttered: the original...

Stephannie Zacharek, Time: There are more than 20 songs in all-almost too many! But the variety is so vast that they don't grow tiresome. The staging is inventive and graceful: At one point a revolving segment of the stage allows the players in Hamilton's life to circle in mesmerizing slow motion, like history's ghosts coming round to remind us that they, too, were once flesh and blood. If you've already seen the show-I hadn't-these delights won't be new to you. But even though nothing matches the thrill of live performance, the filmed Hamilton does offer its advantages: Kail, the director of this film as well as the play, chooses his close-ups carefully, and there's no busy, distracting camera work. The effect is that of watching the show not from the best seat in the house, but from the best ten seats.

Scott Mendelsonn, Forbes: Watching Hamilton for the first time, I was struck by how many of the show's lyrics ("who tells your story," "immigrants: we get the job done," "shoot your shot," etc.) had already entered our pop culture vernacular. For those unaware, Lin-Manual Miranda's Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow's 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father credited with creating the nation's financial system and becoming our first Secretary of the Treasury, which is partially why it's his face on the $10 bill. The show tells a story of the founding of America, with the Revolutionary War taking up the first act and the bumpy early days of a new nation filling up the second act, through the eyes of its immigrant protagonist who worked his way up to becoming George Washington's right-hand man.

David Cote, Observer: So, how's the film look? Despite the insane popularity of the brand, delivering an equally great small-screen Hamilton was never a slam dunk. And I wouldn't oversell the work in terms of cinema. The eagerly awaited "Hamilfilm" is a first-rate capture of a Broadway show with smart camerawork and tactical closeups that enhance the storytelling. Hamilton on stage may have plenty to look at-due to choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's constantly morphing movement vocabulary ranging from breakdance to story-theater mime-but it's a unit set and sung-through narrative for nearly three hours.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: This filmed rendition-with stage director Kail doing an impressive job behind the camera-has now been taken out of the can, as it were, and released for public consumption. This is not a film version of Hamilton, per se; there will no doubt eventually be a Hamilton movie, which will surely be as dynamic as the stage show so long as Mr. Miranda remains in total control. What this is, literally, is a phenomenal film of the phenomenal stage show.

Jeremy Gerard, Theater News Online: And you too will be gobsmacked and stunned, dazzled and blown away by a musical that has only revealed more strength with each viewing (yes, I have seen it several times). The virtues present from the very first performances at the Public Theater include a story that transports you on an electrifying wave of musical energy from the opening moments, when Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) wonders how the orphaned immigrant made his way to New York City and thence the heights of power during the American Revolution and afterward.

Patricia Puentes, CNet: Kail makes sure to deliver on Miranda's promise of getting you the "best seat in the house." The play has been shot from different angles in the audience. But it also uses frequent close-ups, offers bird's-eye views of the whole stage and occasionally frames the scene from backstage. The first time King George (Jonathan Groff) appears on stage, the camera follows him from behind, presenting a backstage view a regular audience member would never see. You can even take in the teardrops on Phillipa Soo's (Eliza Hamilton) face after a devastating event.

Alissa Wilkinson, Vox: Onstage - and thus in the film - this structure is even clearer. Odom is commanding, a tall and elegant stage presence, especially compared to the scrappier Miranda. As Burr, he can swing from charming and smooth to tortured to obsequious with just the shape of his smile and the lift of his head. He is trying to please us and then, as time goes on, complaining to us about the unfairness of the universe. He was born to power and class. He is the one who has a family legacy to protect. He should, by rights, be president.

Mary Green, People: There are plenty of magical moments here, like when Daveed Diggs opens the second act as Thomas Jefferson returning from France in 1789 in "What Did I Miss?" or Leslie Odom Jr. (as Aaron Burr) performing the dazzling yet- sad plea "The Room Where It Happens." The oft repeated line "You write like you're running out of time" could be said to apply both to Hamilton (who was in his 40s when he died in a duel with Burr) and the prodigious Miranda himself, spinning reams of rich lyrics.

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