Rise up and rejoice, Hamilton fans, because the filmed performance of the blockbuster Broadway musical is coming to Disney+ a year earlier than anticipated, just in time for Fourth of July festivities. It’s an unusual move for the Mouse House, which paid a whopping $75 million for the worldwide rights back in February and had originally set a theatrical release date of fall 2021. But with the pandemic shuttering so many cinemas and theaters worldwide, Disney is clearly betting on its hugely successful streaming service (which just surpassed 50 million subscribers) to recoup its investment.
“No other artistic work in the last decade has had the cultural impact of Hamilton—an inspiring and captivating tale told and performed in a powerfully creative way. In light of the extraordinary challenges facing our world, this story about leadership, tenacity, hope, love, and the power of people to unite against the forces of adversity is both relevant and impactful,” Bob Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to bring this phenomenon to Disney+ on the eve of Independence Day, and we have the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda and the team behind Hamilton to thank for allowing us to do so more than a year before planned.”
For those who have inexplicably missed the Hamilton juggernaut of the last several years, it’s the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), who was inspired after reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. The musical follows the high points of the founding father’s colorful life in two acts, with music that expertly blends a wide variety of styles: hip-hop R&B, traditional show tunes, pop, and soul. (The rap-based “Cabinet Battle #1” and “Cabinet Battle #2” are instant classics; in fact, the entire original cast recording will have you humming the tunes for weeks.)
Sure, Hamilton took some historical liberties here and there for narrative and thematic purposes, but Chernow served as historical advisor while Miranda was developing the musical, so the broad strokes are all intact. The musical opened on Broadway in July 2015 in previews, opening officially on August 6 that same year to near-unanimous critical acclaim. It has been breaking box office records ever since.
The 2 hour, 40 minute “live capture” film was shot two weeks before the original cast left, in June 2016. According to Deadline, “Director Tommy Kail directed both the stage version and the movie, which consisted of shooting three live performances, and also some setup shots without an audience. All of the footage was used to create multiple angles, to ensure the cinematic nature of the event, without a bad seat in the house.”
So we’ll all get the chance to see Miranda as Alexander Hamilton; Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler; Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr; Christopher Jackson as George Washington; Jonathan Groff as King George; Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton; Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds; Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison; and Anthony Ramos as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton.
The real question is whether Disney+ will opt to bleep out the production’s occasional f-bombs, given that the platform thought it was necessary to add CGI hair over Daryl Hannah’s butt when it started streaming Splash, among other edits. But apparently Miranda himself is OK with that, per New York Times pop culture reporter Kyle Buchanan, who said on Twitter that he’d asked Miranda about it on the Oscars red carpet in February.
“If we have to mute a word here or there to reach the largest audience possible, I’m OK with that, because your kids already have the original language memorized,” Miranda told Buchanan. “I don’t think we’re depriving anyone of anything if we mute an f-bomb here or there to make our rating.” There’s always the original cast recording soundtrack if you really want to revel in a few extra swears.
Hamilton drops on Disney+ on July 3, 2020.