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Based on the autobiography of America’s least-known but arguably most-influential founding father, Hamilton tells the life story of a self-made immigrant bureaucrat named Alexander Hamilton. Presenting an old story in an incredibly original and contemporary manner – complete with modern dance and music styles – the musical became an instant hit.
Given how tickets have been sold out for so long, Disney+ subscribers were naturally overjoyed to learn that, for the first and perhaps only time ever, they would be able to experience the story from the comfort of their living rooms. Although a filmed version of the musical was initially going to appear in theaters sometime next year, Disney seized an opportunity to entertain their quarantined customers with this exclusive offer.
But since non-essential businesses remain closed, and large-scale gatherings banned, you may find yourself wondering how the filmmakers were able to capture the musical on camera. And the answer to that question is relatively simple. See, the performance you can find on Disney+ wasn’t shot in 2020, but in 2016, not long after the musical became an international sensation.
Filmed by none other than the Broadway show’s own director, Thomas Kail, the decision was made, first and foremost, for posterity’s sake. Unlike most recordings, though, Kail wanted to not only capture, but enhance the performance.
“I made the film over the last three years, but we shot it in three days. We shot on June 26, 27 and 28 of 2016. We shot two live performances straight through with an audience—no stopping. That was the matinee on the 26th and the evening on the 28th. We had a little bit of time on the 26th after the show, all day on Monday and a little time in the beginning of the 28th to then be onstage, get some over the shoulders and get the Steadicam in there without an audience.”
“So, we have two performances that were live. The film you see is taken from both of those. Then, we also had 13 numbers of the possible 46 that we got onstage and did it without an audience. So, the vast majority of the 33 numbers was all taken from the Sunday or the Tuesday. Then we had some of the bigger numbers out there—‘Hamilton,’ ‘My Shot,’ ‘Satisfied,’ ‘Helpless,’ ‘Non-Stop,’ ‘One Last Time,’ ‘The Room Where It Happens.’ Those were numbers that we were able to get onstage, and we did a couple takes of those without an audience. Then we sifted and sorted.”
Additionally, his crew also used over six cameras. All these measures were undertaken to make the recording of Hamilton as enjoyable as possible, an effort which has surely paid off.
“I had six cameras that were shooting on the Sunday with different operators and then three fixed cameras or nine total. Then, I changed all the positions for the fixed cameras for the Tuesday so the multiple gets high really fast, but that’s how we made it… Our show is not just about the principals—it’s about the entire ensemble, and so much of our storytelling is done in the physical vocabulary. If I’m going to close up, it means I’m not on that dance step. It’s very hard to do both those things. So, it was a real balance of making sure that I wanted to give intimacy and proximity, which you have in cinema.”
Tell us, have you checked out Hamilton on Disney Plus yet? Let us know down below.