OK, so now you’ve all had a chance to watch the Hamilton film (the recording of the original cast of this smash hit musical recorded on Broadway, now available on Disney+) – you have watched, haven’t you? If not, what are you waiting for?! Watch the trailer here if you still need convincing.
What follows contains some spoilers and will mostly be incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t seen the show on stage and/or screen at least once. But hey, what’s a blog for if you can’t use it to indulge your fan-girl ramblings once in a while?!
These are notes I made as thoughts occurred to me throughout the show. There is no particular thread running through them, but this is what I would have said to you if we’d been watching it together:
1) Why did no Brexiteers ever make a Hamilton spoof, with Jean-Claude Juncker in the George III role…? (Probably because all the clever, artsy types were Remainers, I suppose. And we had no Hamilton figure, let alone a George Washington. History was happening here in Britain, but we wanted to watch it on stage rather than embracing it in our lives.)
2) I cried (as usual) when they sang ‘The world will never be the same’. I suppose world-changing turmoil isn’t as exciting when you’re living through it as when you watch it with the distance of centuries. Plus you don’t know who is destined to change the world when they step off a ship into a new land. But my heart swells at the thought of those people who are the right person in the right place at the right time to change the world. I love to learn their stories.
3) Helpless/Satisfied is just an extraordinary piece of theatre on every level. I’m so glad I get to watch it over and over again.
4) If they ever get Tommy Kail (director of the show on stage and of the film) to do a Masterclass on stage direction (or indeed, on anything), I might just abandon all my other day jobs and learn everything he can possibly teach.
5) I cry every time at ‘Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now’, and absolutely sobbed at ‘The World Turned Upside-Down’. That sense of joyous wonder at the world is something I think we’re sorely lacking in the UK, and perhaps even in the US in this decade. Yes, it’s in the face of tragedy and loss, but we get to dream big about what to build from the ashes, and we’re missing it. Too busy avoiding the puddles to marvel at the rainbow.
6) The stagecraft, the stagecraft! Even relatively tiny decisions – like not moving the staircase until the very end of Act 1, then using it to fantastic effect in ‘What Did I Miss?’ – is just one example of how not one step in this show is accidental or incidental. The fabulous gift of holding something back until it will have the greatest impact is a joy to behold. (Conversely, looking back, I didn’t think the doubly-rotating stage had its full impact in the screen version. I’m not sure I’d have noticed it until the end if I didn’t know it was there.)
7) ‘Forgiveness’ is about the most powerful three syllables of any show I’ve seen. It landed even better in the theatre for me (the one moment when I immediately disagreed with Kail’s choice of camera shots – that was not the moment to switch to a close-up). The opening out of the music is like a flower bursting into bloom. Breathtaking.
8) Two men, both desperate to get to the top, and both destroyed, in different ways, by their own ambition. (And two affairs, both treated very differently – to Burr it’s “Why don’t you go after this girl?”, to Hamilton it’s “Say no to this!” Interesting.)
9) I love how the bow at the end is taken in a single line. Principals and ensemble all jumbled together. Each person played the role he or she was given, wholeheartedly, and each got equal credit.
There’s more that could be said, so much more. A thousand perfect moments. And don’t get me started on ‘the cabinet’, that band of brothers who conjured up this miracle from visions in Lin Manuel Miranda’s brain, who caught the wisps of genius, spun them into threads and wove together a practically perfect package, while all staying friends and having the time of their lives. Their genius and generosity, their humility and humour… They’ve shown that great art can be created from a place of joy not just from storms and tantrums.
I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to see a Shakespeare play in its early years. I think this is the closest we’re likely to come in my lifetime. I’m thankful to have been alive right now, to see history unfolding before my eyes.