Lin-Manuel Miranda’s iconic musical Hamilton is streaming on Disney+. Here’s what to look for when you finally watch it.
Hamilton’s release on Disney+ will be many people’s first opportunity to see the show. If you’re one of those people–if you never entered a ticket lottery in New York or caught a newer iteration in another location–you’re in for a treat when Lin-Manuel Miranda’s iconic historical hip hop musical hits Disney’s streaming service on July 3.
The streaming version of Miranda’s musical was recorded with the original cast, so this is the version that fully blew up a few years ago. And the hype is truly real: Hamilton is unbelievably good, much better than you’d expect from a rap musical based on the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton is a bonafide sensation because it’s legitimately phenomenal. The fusion of rap, American history, a cast of non-white actors, and musical theater sensibilities creates a show unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, and it has endless layers to peel back in the music, lyrics, set, choreography, and more. If you’re watching it for the first time on Disney+, here are some things to look out for.
1. It’s historically accurate
Of course, there are moments in Hamilton where creator Lin-Manuel Miranda took creative liberties, like Hamilton’s exact age or the details of certain relationships where little historical information was available. But Miranda did intense amounts of research about the period and the people involved, from reading biographies and Hamilton’s own writings to visiting historical locations. In fact, it was a biography that gave Miranda the idea in the first place–Ron Chernow’s appropriately titled book “Alexander Hamilton.” Chernow later served as a consultant to help ensure the musical’s historical accuracy. In other words, if it happens in Hamilton, it probably happened similarly in real life. Educational!
2. There’s an extra song you haven’t heard before
Even if you haven’t seen Hamilton the musical yet, there’s a chance you’ve listened to Hamilton the musical soundtrack. But even if you’ve memorized every word of the album, there will be surprises for you in the stage version, including one extra scene, Laurens’ Interlude, that isn’t on the album.
3. There are countless rap references
If you’re a hip hop head, there’s a lot you’re going to love about Hamilton. The various characters’ rapping styles are based on different rappers Miranda likes, from Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes to Eminem and Mobb Deep. You’ll find lyrics that reference and pay homage to hip hop classics of the past as well. “My Shot” alone features a line lifted from Mobb Deep’s Shook Ones Part II (“I’m only 19, but my mind is old”) and an homage to Notorious BIG’s Going Back to Cali (the way Hamilton spells out his name).
4. And other musicals, too
Hamilton is a hip hop musical, a Venn diagram you might think doesn’t have much overlap. Even if you’re a bigger fan of the “musical” part than the “hip hop” aspect, there’s plenty in the show to dig into (don’t forget, Miranda is a theater nerd first and foremost). As Mental Floss points out, Hamilton’s lyrics include references to and entire lines borrowed from other musicals including South Pacific, Pirates of Penzance, and The Last Five Years.
5. Almost every character is played by a non-white actor
The only major character in Hamilton’s original production who’s played by a white actor is, appropriately, King George (portrayed by Jonathan Groff). Unsurprisingly, this is no accident; Miranda told the New York Times in 2015, “Our goal was: This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance–our story should look the way our country looks. Then we found the best people to embody these parts. I think it’s a very powerful statement without having to be a statement.”
6. Several actors play multiple roles
Hamilton is divided into two distinct acts, one prior to the American Revolution, and one set afterward, with an intermission in between. Naturally, since the musical strives to stay mostly accurate to Hamilton’s life, there are characters who are present in one act but not the other, like Hamilton’s son Philip, who was born in 1782. One of the fun things about watching and re-watching the show is noting which actors switch roles halfway through. For example, Daveed Diggs plays Marquis de Lafayette in the first half and Thomas Jefferson in the second.
7. You’ll recognize these actors
Speaking of Diggs, you’re going to recognize several of the actors in this show, whose careers have blown up since Hamilton debuted. You might know Diggs from the recent Snowpiercer TV show, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or his excellent 2018 film Blindspotting. Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler, now stars in the Netflix sci-fi show Altered Carbon. Groff, who plays King George, stars in the Frozen movies as Kristoff and the Netflix true-crime-adjacent show Mindhunters. And of course, Miranda himself has since appeared in Mary Poppins Returns, HBO’s His Dark Materials, and many more.
8. Watch the set as the show progresses
As The Washington Post pointed out in 2018, Hamilton’s now-iconic set, created by designer David Korins, changes subtly throughout the show. The set was designed to resemble the scaffolding around which the country was built, and as the musical transitions to the second act, the walls get taller and various items around the edges change, like guns and tools being replaced by parchment and quill pens.
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