11 things to know before you watch Hamilton on Disney Plus
The #HamFam Insider’s Guide
by Melissa Clifton
Since it’s star-studded opening night in August, 2015, Hamilton has blown open the gates of Broadway, reimagining the role of people from all backgrounds, creeds and races, while redefining how American’s learn about history.
The genre-bending story, script, music and lyrics were painstakingly perfected over several years by the show’s creator, who also happened to have opened the show as it’s star and leading actor. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winning composer and actor who has captivated America, and possibly saved the real-life Alexander Hamilton from future obscurity (Hint- read #10).
Read on to reveal fascinating inside info, trivia and behind-the-scenes information before you watch the historic debut of the theatrical release on July 3rd.
11. Eleven is the number of Tony awards the show won in 2016.
The Hamilton production captured the coveted Tony for Best Musical in 2016. As if this wasn’t enough, the show proceeded to take home Tonys in 10 other categories, including but not limited to: Leading Actor in a Musical by Leslie Odom, Jr, earned for his portrayal of Aaron Burr; Best Score, a second win in this category for Lin-Manuel Miranda; Best Costume Design of a Musical; and Best Choreography. With subsequent awards including Lin-Manuel’s Pulitzer Prize, you know you’re in for a great show when you get the chance to see it for yourself!
10. The show may have saved the man...
…from being removed from the $10 bill that is.
According to Wikipedia: “In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced a redesign to the $10 bill, with plans to replace Hamilton with a then-undecided woman from American history. Because of Hamilton's surging popularity, almost exclusively due to the musical, United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reversed the plans to replace Hamilton's portrait, instead deciding to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.” Speaking of, when are we going to see that new $20 bill?
9. You can TRAVEL along with the cast, digitally for now.
PBS's Great Performances released the documentary Hamilton's America, which “delves even deeper into the creation of the show… [F]leshing out the story is newly shot footage of the New York production with its original cast, trips to historic locations such as Mt. Vernon and Valley Forge with Miranda and other cast members."
The Mount Vernon Estate takes this a step further, allowing visitors to examine the relationship between George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the estate itself throughout the songs from the Broadway musical: https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/alexander-hamilton/hamilton-the-musical/
8. Miranda acted-out wildly popular Hamilton performances Off-Broadway.
Hamilton originally premiered Off-Broadway, at The Public Theater, for the first half of 2015 before making it to Broadway in August of the same year.
Also, during the sold-out Broadway engagement, Lin-Manuel Miranda spent nearly a year hosting free mini-performances for audiences of eager patrons waiting in line for the Hamilton ticket “lottery”. The crowds that formed became so large that congestion took over West 46th Street, eventually forcing an online lottery to take its place with a website. The first day of the online lottery, more than 50,000 people visited the website, ultimately leading it to crash and be replaced by an app.
Here's one of those Ham4Ham street performances:
7. The rights to Hamilton cost Disney $75 million.
In 2020, Walt Disney Studios purchased the distribution rights of Hamilton with a winning bid of $75 million dollars. The original plan was to debut the theatrical release in late fall of 2020 or 2021. Due to the closure of Broadway as an impact of COVID-19, the theatrical release was moved up to July 3, 2020 so we could all enjoy the show over the Independence Day weekend.
6. Details of Hamilton’s real life are glossed-over or inaccurate.
Although Ron Chernow, the historian and author of the Alexander Hamilton biography, was on-hand for consulting, there has been criticism of some historical inaccuracies in the plot. Most instances of “artistic license” used in the show were credited as having been used to add drama, or were deemed as necessary for the arc of the storyline to fit within the context of a Broadway show.
One interesting fact that is not well known is the strange synchronicity of Hamilton’s death in the duel to protect his honor, which took place in Weehawken, New Jersey- the same exact place his oldest son, Phillip Hamilton, died defending the honor of his father, Alexander.
5. The show continues to break records.
Daveed Diggs, who plays the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette & Thomas Jefferson, holds the record for the fastest rap on Broadway for rapping 19 words in just 3 seconds in the song Guns and Ships.
The show was also nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony’s in 2016.
Hamilton set records each week, including a Broadway box office record for the most money grossed in a single week, when it grossed $3.3 million in eight performances. The show is currently the 6th highest grossing show, but based on its relatively short run compared to other shows on the list, it has potential to surpass The Lion King for the top spot in overall earnings of all time.
4. The theatrical recording was filmed to mimic a major motion picture.
Don’t be surprised to witness a play that looks more like a movie. The cast was filmed over 3 days, two of which included regularly scheduled live-performances with real audiences and varying camera set ups. A third day of filming was performed in a closed-stage environment for close-ups and pans which allow for the angles and shots that movie-goers expect to see.
3. Hamilton is in the house- your house.
“EduHam” is on mission to improve the teaching and learning of American history. The Gilder Lehrman Institute has partnered with producers of Hamilton and the Miranda family to offer the Hamilton Education Program online with #EduHam at Home.
“The goal is to help students see the relevance of the Founding Era by using primary sources to create a performance piece (e.g., a rap, poem, dramatic piece), following the model used by Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the Hamilton musical.” Students and teachers can access a variety of inspirational activities, resources and curriculum to further their creativity around history and to inspire creation of their own unique masterpieces.
2. Disney is not the only place to explore Hamilton.
Disney may own the rights to the theatrical release of Hamilton, but don’t let that stop you from digging deeper on other platforms. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the songs and play after reading the inspirational Hamilton biography written in 2004 by historian and biographer Ron Chernow, available online or at most major bookstores.
For a deep dive on the musical itself, PBS's Great Performances exhibited the documentary “Hamilton's America”, and a compilation of interviews with theater critics in “Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway” is available on Amazon Prime Video. Not only that, but the award-winning score is available on Spotify and YouTube. That’s right, all 46 songs recorded by the original cast can be listened to for FREE:
1. You have access to a new song that no one has heard.
In anticipation of the theatrical release of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda released a never-before heard song that was cut from the original writing of the show before Director Thomas Kail even heard it. Picture Alexander Hamilton seeking advice “for a friend” from his dear friend George Washington. You can listen to Miranda singing the first draft, titled “I Have This Friend” here: https://soundcloud.com/lin_manuel/cut-hamilton-tune-i-have-this-friend