Hamilton, the filmed version of the beloved, massively popular Broadway play, is officially available to stream on Disney+. But while you may be excited to finally get to see the Tony-winning production, you also might be wondering if you are going to be seeing a watered-down version of the play. After all, translating a play to film is a hit-or-miss process and often time, changes can be made that end up hurting the viewing experience. Is that the case here? Here’s how Hamilton, the film, differs from Hamilton, the play.
For the most part, Hamilton is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the stage play. No songs have been cut or added and the choreography is identical to what audience members were seeing on stage every night. It even has the entire original cast, including Miranda as the titular founding father, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, and Daveed Diggs as Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson (in the tradition of musical theater, several actors play two parts). Overall, this is pretty much exactly what you would expect to see if you’d been lucky enough to score a ticket to Hamilton back in 2016.
“No one was ‘turning it on’ for the cameras,” director Thomas Kail told the LA Times. “This is exactly the same performance they were all giving people every single night. It was always that remarkable and it was always that true.”
The major difference? The lack of audience noise. While you can hear the audience cheering after songs and laughing after the occasional one-liner, for the most part, the audience is silent. It’s a smart choice, as it allows the focus to be put on the actors and songs instead of being distracted by a crowd losing their shit the first time Jonathan Groff appears (though there is still some light cheering).
Of course, managing to take audience noise mostly out of the finished product was no easy feat, as it required two filmings of performances with an audience along with 13 numbers that were recorded via Steadicam with no audience. Thanks to what you have to imagine was a grueling editing process, the end result feels like a cohesive production, rather than several different productions spliced together.
Additionally, watching the production filmed allows you a closer look at the cast, so you can see the look of desire and infatuation on the face of Eliza Schuyler (played by Phillipa Soo) when she meets Hamilton for the first time or the anger boiling in Burr as his political plans unravel when Hamilton endorses Jefferson instead of him. The emotional stakes feel heightened, which mostly makes up for the fact that you aren’t actually in the room where it happened. They also cut out a few (but not all) expletives, which really feels more like a Disney thing.
Overall, the film version of Hamilton succeeds in bringing the story from the stage to the screen without making too many sacrifices or changes. Will it be as thrilling as actually getting to see it performed live? No, but unless you have a time machine to take you back to 2016, this is really your best chance to see Hamilton performed by the original cast. On the plus side, you can just press pause if you want to grab a drink or use the bathroom, rather than having to wait in your seat for 90 minutes.