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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 8, 2020



LIN MANUEL with the ensemble

THE HIT musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda (he appeared in the movie “Mary Poppins Returns”) is now available on Disney streaming.

If you’d watch it, we strongly advise that you brush up first on your knowledge of American history, particularly the revolution against Britain and its Founding Fathers, so you will be more familiar with the various characters featured in the show.

The show is a big hit with Americans because it’s about their own history. The Disney version was filmed in June 2016 while the show was being staged at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre where it opened in August 2015, so you’d hear the theatre audience applauding and laughing along. 

It features the original cast that had actors of various races playing parts who are really Caucasians. For instance, Aaron Burr, the white third U.S. vice president and the fiercest political rival of Hamilton who killed him in a duel, is played by a black actor, Leslie Odom Jr, who was the one who won as Tony best actor and not Miranda who played the title role.

Miranda is competent but Odom has the more impressive pipes and also excels as actor and dancer as seen in his showstopping solo, “The Room Where It Happens”. Early on, he announces: “I’m the damn fool who shot him.”

Angelica Schuyler, who’s white, is also played by a black actress, Renee Elise Goldsberry, who won as best featured or supporting actress. Another white character is Thomas Jefferson, who is portrayed as a scene-stealing clown by the black Daveed Diggs, who won as best featured or supporting actor.

Such paradoxical casting is part of the show’s very unconventional adaptation, including its very modern storytelling methods, music and the songs to which you have to listen intently as its their lyrics that tell everything.

This filmed version is meant to be released next yet but since Broadway theaters have been closed by the pandemic, they’ve decided to release it via streaming while the world is on a lockdown.

Act 1 opens with Hamilton arriving in New York from his home in an island in the Carribean. He meets the other important characters: Burr, John Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan and they concur in their intentions to rebel against England.

He also meets the Schuyler sisters, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy, who are looking for marriage and Hamilton is quickly attracted to both Angelica and Eliza.

We then see England’s King George (Jonathan Groff in a hilarious number) singing “You’ll Be Back” to the rebels to assert his authority. Hamilton becomes George Washington’s right hand man. Angelica admits having feelings for Hamilton but suppresses this to give way to Eliza who marries Hamilton.

Act 1 ends with the siege of Yorktown with the show’s most popular song “The World Turned Upside Down”. Eliza gives birth to her and Hamilton’s first child, Philip, while Burr has a daughter, Theodosia, and they sing the touching song about their kids, “Dear Theodosia”.

Act 2 shows the characters getting older as the show spans several decades in their lives. George Washington wins as the first U.S.president naming Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury. There are many debates and battles in the cabinet and Burr becomes jealous of Hamilton’s influence and wishes he is just as powerful.

He moves to another political party and defeats Philip Schuyler, the father of Eliza, so he and Hamilton have now become political rivals.  Hamilton gets into an affair with another woman, Maria Reynolds, whose husband then tries to blackmail him.

His opponents try to discredit him in the eyes of Washington who eventually retires and is replaced by John Adams who then fires Hamilton. Eliza is heartbroken when she learns of Hamilton’s extramarital affair and gets to sing the touching song “Burn” where she burns all the letters that Hamilton has written to her.

Hamilton supports Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 presidential election, resulting in more hostility between him and Burr who then challenges him into a duel where Hamilton intentionally missed at Burr who succeeds in shooting him and he dies.

The musical closes, after 2 and a half hours, with a reflection about one’s legacy in  the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” that sings about one’s place in history.

As you watch this, you’re still aware that you’re just watching a filmed stage presentation, but they did a pretty good job of  it, using tracking shots and a lot of medium shots and close ups to show the interplay between the actors and the ensemble, capturing nuances in both big and small moments.

It’s definitely better than getting a front row seat which has become so exorbitant in Broadway.

But mind you, if you’re an old fogey like us who is used to unforgettable musicals of yore like the works of Rodgers & Hammersteins, Loerner & Loewe, where the songs are so contagious you go out of the theater humming them.

We refer to the songs in “South Pacific”, “The Sound of Music”, “My Fair Lady” and the like, If you belong to our generation, then you’ll find the very contemporary flavor of the songs here unimpressive.

At the end of “Hamilton”, which is sung through, we don’t really remember any of its songs melody and lyric. And we also doubt if the ordinary Pinoy viewer would appreciate this as much as Western audiences did. For sure, one day, there will be a true and actual film version of “Hamilton”, not just a filmed play.