Debating ‘Hamilton’ as It Shifts From Stage to Screen

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The first time around, I found that after “Helpless” and “Satisfied,” the personal aspects of the story lost a bit of focus and intensity. The politics seemed to be Miranda’s main interest, and Hamilton’s family life and the women in it drifted to the margin. I assumed that the writing was the reason, but I think Jesse is right. The camera, moving among the performers and cutting between close-ups and wider shots, creates zones of intimacy that a theatergoer doesn’t experience, so that the streaming version seemed to strike a better balance between political passions and domestic emotions. Before, I understood conceptually what Eliza was doing at the end. This time, like Jesse, I felt it dramatically.

MAYA PHILLIPS But the show drops the ball on its women. Angelica is such a fascinating character, and in their opening number the Schuyler sisters are framed as smart, feminist, contemporary women. But one sister is the patient, doting wife; one is the fiery match for Hamilton who only sporadically appears; one is introduced and then forgotten completely. It does a disservice to the actresses (especially Goldsberry, who is capital-s Stunning). If we are already taking on the revisionist task of recasting our problematic white founding fathers, then why not do more for these women? Miranda self-consciously lets Eliza put herself “back in the narrative” as a final gesture, but it read so bald to me.

Can I admit my big, shameful theater-critic secret I’ve been holding onto for the past several years? I never got to see “Hamilton” onstage. I had heard many of the songs, but this was my first time seeing it. No one told me it was so long and so incredibly packed! I have to admit that as I watched this on a screen, I wasn’t emotionally invested, and the show seemed overlong and wearying by the end. The performers all know what they’re doing, of course, and Miranda himself is so charming and appealing to watch, and yet, perhaps because I wasn’t buoyed by the energy of a live performance, I found his less-than-stellar vocal abilities totally distracting.

JON PARELES “Hamilton” must have registered as sensory overload in the theater, with not only the usual Broadway song-and-dance but also all those words rushing by. As a stream on the screen, it allows replays, and that means the chance to double-check Miranda’s polysyllabic wizardry: “A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists/Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is.” Replays also help bring out how deeply hip-hop aesthetics are embedded in what Miranda created, even when the music leans toward old-school Broadway show tunes. It can’t be an accident that the centerpiece of the stage set is a turntable.



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