Here's the truth: I was never going to see Hamilton live on-stage. There were just too many hurdles.
Even though London is just a couple of hours from where I live, I know I wasn't going to go out of my way to get tickets, book a hotel, co-ordinate days off with my partner and make a whole evening of it. I'm just too lazy. Hamilton was destined to be something I either experienced through Spotify, or just had explained to me over and over again by friends who actually bothered to go.
Hamilton's arrival on Disney Plus, then, feels like a real event. And maybe the only massive event on streaming services during this strange year so far. While the early release of movies like Pixar's Onward or The Invisible Man on VOD seemed like a big deal in the moment, this is the first thing I've cleared my schedule to watch during our current global situation.
And yes, I think it lives up to the hype. I believe Hamilton feels momentous because this is something you never expected to experience in your home this year. The novelty value is high because theater experiences are harder to come by right now.
Why is Hamilton worth watching?
To put it simply, as a first-time viewer, Hamilton showed me something I feel like I've never seen before. Unless you really hate musicals, I feel like this will offer the same sensation to you.
An ambitious biographical musical with a distinctly contemporary approach, I watched Hamilton with the strong sense that I was enjoying someone's masterpiece for the first time. It's an enlightening, frequently funny and emotional viewing experience that leaves a powerful impression, even without seeing it live in the theater.
Hamilton tells the life story of United States founding father Alexander Hamilton (played by writer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda), and his extraordinary journey from orphan to vital figure in the American Revolution and ultimately American politics. His story is told in contrast to that of Aaron Burr (played by Leslie Odom Jr), his friend-turned-rival and eventual killer.
Collectively, the show offers a rich depiction of this part of American history, and it suddenly had me opening 25 Chrome tabs to read about everyone mentioned in the script (in my experience of education in the UK, they don't teach you all that much about the wars we didn't win).
A massive part of this movie version's appeal is that it features the original 2015 Broadway cast of the musical. This is the ensemble that turned Hamilton into a sensation in the first place. This recording exists as a time capsule, then, and even though it was filmed over three different performances in a single week, I wasn't able to tell. For continuity purposes, it helps that Miranda consistently looks tired as hell in every shot (partly because he was performing on his day off to get the footage needed for this movie, according to an interview).
Afterwards, I ended up researching what the entire cast did next, because there are so many memorable performances to enjoy here (although I'm already familiar with King George actor Jonathan Groff from Netflix's Mindhunter). Admittedly, I did also watch Miranda's amazing turn in Curb Your Enthusiasm a few months before this, which piqued my interest in finally watching Hamilton.
If you're a first-timer, don't miss it
If you're sceptical about Hamilton being overly hyped based on the monumental success of the musical, I say watch the first number and try not to be won over. The energy of the lyrics and performances immediately enchanted me as a first-time viewer.
I have no real knowledge of musical theater, and I don't think the promise of seeing Hamilton live one day will address my laziness in booking a trip to London's West End. Not when I can just sit here and play Apex Legends in my underpants.
That said, this feels like a lightning-in-a-bottle experience, and a real treat to fight the lockdown blues. I imagine the prospect of seeing Hamilton live is more complicated for most people than it is for me. And while getting a month of Disney Plus might not be within everyone's means, the release of Hamilton on the platform brings down the financial barriers of experiencing this culturally significant work. That's pretty cool.
Hamilton's arrival also underlines another important point: Disney Plus needs more musicals. In this period of production strife in TV and film, it's another way to differentiate the service from its competitors.
Hamilton is streaming now on Disney Plus
- The Mandalorian season 2: what we know