It’s time for a rap ses­sion

Dis­ney+ hopes to make his­tory with small-screen ver­sion of Hamil­ton

Calgary Herald - - MOVIES - STEVEN ZEITCHIK

When Lin-manuel Mi­randa posted the trailer for his new Hamil­ton film on Twit­ter Sun­day night, it blew up big­ger than a Hamil­ton-jef­fer­son rap bat­tle. By the next af­ter­noon, more than 220,000 peo­ple had liked the tweet from the Hamil­ton cre­ator, with the trailer get­ting 4.2 mil­lion views.

Yet that’s only the be­gin­ning for the #Hamil­film, as the up­com­ing screen ren­der­ing of the stage smash is known on so­cial me­dia. When the event, which was shot with most of the orig­i­nal Broad­way cast on­stage four years ago, pre­mières July 3 on Dis­ney+, it will serve as a bell­wether for the stream­ing ser­vice.

Even more im­por­tant is what the de­but says about the broader con­cept of stream­ing. Since its in­cep­tion, stream­ing has been about de­liv­er­ing se­ri­al­ized episodes of in­di­vid­u­al­ized con­tent, a place of a thou­sand niches and end­less binges. The #Hamil­film of­fers the re­verse — an at­tempt to bring old-school, gather-in-the­liv­ing-room entertainm­ent val­ues into a dig­i­tal world.

“Hamil­ton is not a se­ries but a ma­jor one-off. And Dis­ney+ has never had a one-off,” said Dan Ray­burn, a stream­ing con­sul­tant and ex­pert.

It would be hard to imag­ine that more cultural or eco­nomic mean­ing could be wrung out of Hamil­ton. The rap-driven Broad­way mu­si­cal about the United States’ found­ing fathers and moth­ers that opened in 2015 swept the Tonys, sold out sound­tracks and world tours, grossed more than half a bil­lion dol­lars in New York alone and ig­nited a re­nais­sance for Broad­way mu­si­cals among teenagers.

Yet the movie’s re­lease ups the ante. The #Hamil­film is be­ing planned as a kind of na­tional bar­be­cue. With Amer­i­cans lack­ing con­certs and ball games to at­tend, Dis­ney hopes they will mark the hol­i­day in a quintessen­tially 2020 man­ner: by stay­ing home to watch a show recorded in 2016.

“I think (an at-home view­ing of ) Hamil­ton is def­i­nitely a weird way of unit­ing peo­ple on a hol­i­day,” said Josh Spiegel, a cultural critic and com­men­ta­tor who of­ten fo­cuses on Dis­ney, “but it will be a very ef­fec­tive way. Peo­ple won’t share the ex­pe­ri­ence in the­atres like they do with movies, but they’ll share it with a lot of peo­ple on so­cial me­dia.”

Dis­ney, via a spokesper­son, de­clined to com­ment for this story.

Ac­quired for some $75 mil­lion, the Hamil­ton movie stitches to­gether sev­eral per­for­mances of the show, as Aaron Burr, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, An­gel­ica Schuyler, Thomas Jef­fer­son and, of course, Alexan­der and El­iza Hamil­ton mix it up and have it out at the dawn of Amer­ica.

The #Hamil­film was orig­i­nally slated for a the­atri­cal re­lease in Oc­to­ber 2021. But the pan­demic forced Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tives to shuf­fle its up­com­ing re­leases around.

Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tives met with Mi­randa, the show’s cre­ator, as well as the show’s direc­tor, Tommy Kail, and pro­ducer, Jef­frey Seller. The trio agreed that a shift to the small screen and the pan­demic-entertainm­ent land­scape was the best move.

“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,” Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Bob Iger said in an­nounc­ing the re­lease last month.

The Wash­ing­ton Post

Lin-manuel Mi­randa

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