Dumb Hamilton Article re: Cast Album vs. Movie

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macbeth
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I know I'm giving more airtime to it by complaining about it - but I can't resist. 

https://slate.com/culture/2020/06/hamilton-movie-disney-plus-unnecessary.html

This is so pointless, and missing all the brilliance of the staging and you know - actually SEEING it!

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Actually, I completely agree with what the article is saying. Personally, I find the production laughably over-choreographed, to the point of being distracting. And as the article said, it's perfectly easy to follow the show, and get a sense of the show's brilliant qualities through the cast album. I would even say that the score sounds better on the album than it does live. 

Having said that, I agree with you, macbeth, in the sense that this article doesn't really serve much of a purpose. If someone wants to see it live, or if they think they might like the staging, then there's no purpose in telling them they shouldn't (except to dissuade people from putting more money in Disney's pocket). It's all a matter of opinion, and the writer of this article can't predict whether people will like the staging or not. 

I think it's fair game for the author to critique the production, and make the claim that the cast album is better than the production. But to spin that by saying "YOU don't need to watch it" is a little bit presumptuous. But she probably just did that to make the article more of a click-bait. 

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It's an opinion piece. It's one person's view. Who cares?

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qolbinau
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I also tend to agree that the strength of the show is more in the writing and performances than the staging, although seeing the video will bring out the performances in a way that isn't possible in an audio-only cast recording, so the article seems kind of pointless to me.

 

 

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If it bothers you so much, why are you giving Slate the clicks? 

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Agree with the above, the star of the show is the score and seeing the show in person adds surprisingly little to the cast recording experience.

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It seems to me that all of the concurring opinions here are coming from the vantage point of people who did not care for what they saw on stage. That is everyone's prerogative, of course. To me, the live stage show was incredible and visceral and irreplaceable. I think even those who did not care for it recognize that theirs was a minority opinion. That's true of the original piece although I confess that I also do not believe that a cast recording can be severed from the play to which it relates any more than the cheese on the slice of pizza I just snarfed down can be separated from the crust and tomato sauce. (Not to mention the anchovies Dumb Hamilton Article re: Cast Album vs. Movie

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Someone in a Tree2
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I'm in full agreement with the article too. I'd been replaying the cd in my headphones for 2 years of morning jogs around the reservoir and found the score thrilling and complete in my mind's eye.

Then we booked tickets to see the sit-down company at the Pantages (LA), and were dumbstruck by how inert the live show seemed by comparison. Everything seemed played straight out to the audience like a choral reading or song cycle. Where was the person to person drama? Where were the hypnotic stage pictures? And what the hell was that ensemble doing with their insanely distracting choreography? We were not fans.

I'll be watching the filmed show avidly, mostly to see the chemistry between the original cast which I never got to see. Otherwise, good or bad, I'll always have the thrill of listening to the cast album whenever I want, inside of the perfect proscenium of my own mind.

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agreed with Hogan. seeing the original cast live was transcendent. yes the cast recording is fantastic but i’ve never loved a cast recording that a vision didn’t insist or even improve

edit: i was very tired when i wrote this. lmao i'm not even sure what i was trying to say

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Updated On: 6/29/20 at 08:54 AM
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I agree with JBroadway about the choreography. It was repetitive and distracting for me. I also am not a fan of Lin as an actor. I enjoy his music. I do enjoy the score for In The Heights more but credit to him for writing a good complex score for Hamilton. I want to see what he does next.

Also, wasn't it supposed to start streaming on July 3rd? I see that it is streaming now according to a banner at the top of this site but as I am typing there is a commercial on TV saying the 3rd.

Just give the world Love.
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Someone in a Tree2 said: "Everything seemed played straight out to the audience like a choral reading or song cycle. Where was the person to person drama? Where were the hypnotic stage pictures? And what the hell was that ensemble doing with their insanely distracting choreography? We were not fans."

I don't question anyone's personal reaction to a show, no matter how popular it is or isn't. And no one has to be affected by stage pictures and choreography in the same way I am. But as you watch the show again, might I suggest making a mental note of the percentage of what you see that it direct address vs "person to person drama." I ask this because what you say on these subjects is not supportable by what you will see on the stream. That doesn't change your reaction, of course, but I encourage you to report accurately.

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I have to say that I think Hamilton is a great show, the score and orchestration are brilliant, the performances on the OCR uniformly perfect.  

That said, I have always felt that the show was over-directed and choreographed.  I didn't feel that way the first time I saw it...I was just so happy to be there in front of the orchestra (very side) seats.  We were so close that I really enjoyed the facial expressions and interactions up close...they were definitely there.  I clearly lost the perspective that you get from the center raider section of the orchestra, but for once that did not detract from my enjoyment at all.  

I saw the show two additional times in NYC, from that great elevated center section of the orchestra, back when you could get 15th row center or so and not pay premium prices, and once in a theatre barn in Tampa, in good but not great seats.  Those three viewings left me with the same reaction.  I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, but really thought the show just seemed too busy, and could have benefitted from a bit of a 'less is more' attitude.  I definitely would have enjoyed it even more if I were not so focused on how busy it was for me.  

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I was so underwhelmed with the physical production when I finally saw it after having the cast recording memorized. I don’t care for the lighting that specifically doesn’t follow the beat/cues of the music, the boring set, and the “out of the way” direction. I’ve always said listening and studying the OBCR is better than seeing the show live.
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Wow, I had no idea so many people aren't fans of the staging of Hamilton! For me, it's one of the most perfectly staged things I've seen in my life--I rank that staging up there with Michael Bennett's work on Chorus Line and Jerome Robbins's on West Side Story. And for me, the reason the production really works is the way all of the elements work together to tell a coherent story together, each taking their turn. There is so much happening on stage most of the time, but I always know what to look at because the staging foregrounds the most important event, or the lighting brings your focus to the right part of the stage, or the color of the costumes draw your eye to the most important character. It is "busy" in that there's a lot of detail--far too much to take it all in in one viewing--but the detail never overwhelms the whole. And the production is unafraid to also be extremely simple in tender moments, like "Dear Theodosia," which consists of the two men simply facing front while sitting in chairs ten feet apart. Or the gesture that always makes me cry, in "It's Quiet Uptown" when Alexander and Eliza stand side by side and she grabs his hand as the ensemble sings the word "forgiveness," observing from the perimeter of the stage. Thomas Kail knows when to pull back and use simplicity as a tool, and he also knows how to navigate massive choreography and complex lighting cues without getting the audience lost. The three times that I've seen the show live, my reaction to the staging was "I can't believe this is working" because usually that much detail in the background comes at the sake of clarity, but somehow the elements all complement each other in such a way that together, they bring more clarity to the text. Of course, if your experience was different, defend your opinion by all means, but I just want to say that for those of us who love the staging of Hamilton, it's not necessarily because we have a "more is more" outlook. Personally, I couldn't stand The Great Comet and thought it worked much better on the album for the precise reason that that production's "more is more" philosophy was overwhelming and left little room to breathe.

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Ravenclaw, that was a very well-reasoned defense of the staging. Beautifully said. I really can't argue with the logic of it, except that you and I simply have different levels of tolerance when it comes to business. So again, it all just comes down to personal preference, which is totally fine. As you point out, the staging is smart and detail-oriented. It's certainly not messy, just busy. And for me, the business overwhelms and distracts rather than enhances. 

Also, in the same vein of "personal preference," I find a lot of the choreography just kind of...silly looking? Sometimes there are certain moments of staging and choreography that just look kind over-the-top, and ridiculous to me, and it's difficult for me to take them seriously. Unfortunately, I'm not well-versed enough in the dance theory or its terminology to describe why I had that reaction. I wish I could. But I certainly understand if people don't have that reaction. 

For what it's worth, I'm a HUGE fan of Great Comet, and there are a lot of things about Rachel Chavkin's staging that I love. But I actually agree with you that it's sometimes too busy. My big issue with Chavkin's semi-proscenium staging was that there were too many audience members onstage, and the actors' walkways were too narrow, so I often felt like the actors were drowning in a sea of bodies, and it was difficult to focus on them. Aesthetically and conceptually, I prefer Chavkin's direction of Great Comet over Kail's direction of Hamilton. But on a purely technical level, I would probably agree that Kail's staging is better. 

 

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I think it's really funny when people call a simple set that was designed to not distract from the performers "boring". I think people's expectations were set too high after listening to the cast recording, perhaps expecting the exact same thing on stage, ever after all those people left? Strange. 

I saw Hamilton at the Public and on Broadway before the cast recording came out. It remains one of the most spectacular, important, and brilliant works of art of all time. The touring casts and people came after the original cast will never hold a candle to them, in my opinion. That cast was the best of the best, and their chemistry remains unmatched. 

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A good article actually worth reading for people that are interested. 

‘We need to talk about the money’: Leslie Odom Jr.’s ‘Hamilton’ duels, onstage and off

 

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Sutton (and anyone who feels similarly) - its just personal preference. The physical production just isn’t my preferred style of show. The music/book will go down in history as one of the greatest ever. Seeing the show in person with the OBC wasn’t anything like I envisioned with the cast album, and that felt almost purposeful. Hey, I love me a simple set. But the world you create within it physically has to make it worthwhile. I greatly look forward to seeing new director/choreographers take on Hamilton, I think there’s totally new (valid) angles you can take it from that will only add to the piece.
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edit--saw the countdown banner with the bigger one on top says stream now on the main page. 

Updated On: 6/28/20 at 08:36 PM
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Hey, I love me a simple set. But the world you create within it physically has to make it worthwhile. I greatly look forward to seeing new director/choreographers take on Hamilton, I think there’s totally new (valid) angles you can take it from that will only add to the piece.

Good point, and I look forward to that as well. 

 

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I do think it is perhaps a little over choreographed in parts, but other parts (like Hurricane) are stunning when seen staged. 

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I saw it on Bwy and i thought the cast recording was a better more exhilarating experience to listen to with my eyes closes, than watching the actual show. 

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It's art, so people aren't always going to agree. But in defense of Hamilton's lighting and choreography choices, I give you "Satisfied."

The elaborate and complex choreography for that song is extraordinary and played wonderfully up in the rafters (where I sat in 2016), matched only by Savion Glover's "Pennsylvania Graveyard Shuffle" tap number I had seen the night before in Shuffle Along.

"Satisfied" is, of course, one of Hamilton's best songs, with a wonderful performance by Renee Elise Goldsberry that I'm eager to see Friday. But the achievement of the choreography, in making the rather complicated "rewind" idea make logical sense to someone seeing the show for the first time, shouldn't be underestimated.

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Agree, Satisfied (staging and song) is absolutely brilliant. 

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uncageg said: "I agree with JBroadway about the choreography. It was repetitive and distracting for me. "

I'm watching now, and have only gotten as far as "Satisfied", but so far, I don't see the dance element of the show as being choreography. To me, it's much more a ballet.

In terms of the storytelling for this show, the dance is on its own storytelling track. If you physically removed the singers (by now, most of us know the score pretty well), and ran the show with only the dance, lighting and orchestra, you would see the same story being told, but from a different angle/perspective.

My only disappointment in this filming (so far) is how the "rewind" section of Satisfied was filmed. I WANTED TO SEE THE FULL EFFECT - not interspersed jump cuts to close-ups!!! (ruined it for me). frown