S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: The following episode is a recording from the Slate Live. Spoiler specials taping. There were a few technical difficulties during the live show, but we hope you still enjoyed this discussion of the Hamilton movie.
S3: Charlotte, great. Hey, I am. What’s in the box?
S4: Yo, yo, yo.
S2: Hello and welcome to a very special live episode of the Slate Spoiler special podcast. I’m Dana Stevin, Slate’s movie critic. And tonight, we’re gonna be spoiling Hamilton or Hammil film, the film version of the Broadway musical that is as of last week streaming on Disney Plus. Joining me from Slate are not one, not two, but three other great critics. I’ll introduce them. We have Sam Adams is a senior editor at Slate and the editor of our culture blog Browbeat. We also have Rebecca. We need some technical help, guys. I can’t hear anyone.
S5: I can hear Dana now.
S2: You can hear me OK. Hi, Rachel. Rachel, give me your tired one where you’re speaking from. Please help me.
S6: I am speaking from Brooklyn, New York right now. The greatest city in the world.
S2: I was going to say there’s four of us tonight, but tomorrow there’ll be more of us. We didn’t remind me of your title.
S5: I am. Is that right? I forget that recall to fiction and fear of infection.
S2: So I think the first thing I’m gonna do usually on these whorish measures, I go around and ask for just your kind of basic thumbs up, thumbs down opinion first. I do want that. But I also want to hear just a little thumbnail version, your history with Hamilton, because I know, for example, that Rebecca is a newbie who just watched it today for the first time. I know that also Rachel and Sam have some history with it. So let’s go the opposite way. We’ll start with you, Rachel. What’s your history with Hamilton and how do you feel about this film?
S5: So I left him. I was obsessed with Hamilton. I was embarrassingly part of the Hynson fandom on Tumblr for a little while back when I first heard the Cat soundtrack when I was studying abroad in France. So I’m kind of looking for a welcome home. And I was like, oh, my gosh, the American Revolution with people of color. I love to see you. And then I saw it on stage in Chicago and like 2016. Yeah. Ever since then, my love has slightly diminished. I’ve matured as an adult. But that’s mean.
S2: Yeah. The question of to what degree. Hamilton is a kids show I think is interesting to talk about. I hope we touch on that at some point. And I don’t mean that at all. I mean but I just know my kid, for example, super into it. I bet that Samms is as well, you know, and it does have this kind of pedagogical quality, which I think Rebecca will soon be harshing on maybe. What is it, mate? He’s made it appeal to younger kids so much. Okay. Rebecca, what about you? You watched it today for the first time, correct?
S1: I did. I watched it today. I had heard the soundtrack a little bit way back in 2016. I don’t know if it was the first, but we were one of the first her run like a critical piece about Hamilton. And that was a Q&A that I did with a historian, Lyra Monteiro, and that it basically was an argument. I’m sure. I’m sure many of the parts of which we’ll be unpacking and addressing tonight, which is about whether the show itself is actually progressive in the way that it seems to think it is, whether the casting is sort of like a trek. That’s the only interesting thing about the politics of it and everything else is sort of about what you would call founders’ chic, like just like love of founding fathers. And I was completely convinced when I did that Q&A with Dr. Monteiro and I said, yeah, I agree. I never want to hear this. I think it sounds like a terrible idea. And I sort of listen to the soundtrack a little bit. And then I was like, oh, this is corny. It’s what the other things I thought it was kind of like like politically annoying that people seem to love it so much. And then I also thought it was corny. And then finally today, after, what, five years of discourse for four years, five years of discourse around it and kind of thing, are you nuts about it? Back and forth and seeing all the good covers Slate has done over the over the years. And I know many of my colleagues are fans of it. I watched it and well, I don’t know, I still thought it was corny and kind of politically upset. But recent that I have, I feel like I have many more things to say about that. That.
S2: And you’re not also not a musical person in general, I gather. Right. So when I did musicals. Yeah. Although I know some of those people, I live with somebody who doesn’t usually like musicals and has a lot of discomfort with the bursting into song spontaneously, whereas I just wish life were like that every day. And he loves him though.
S7: I don’t think it’s a bad rule of thumb when we’re. Yeah. All right, Sam, you’re done.
S8: I guess my initial introduction to Hamilton was this is like annoying thing at the public theater that my friends in New York kept tweeting about. And I was just like, OK, enough. Then the album came out and it was the base of the soundtrack to my driving my I guess. Then six year old daughter back and forth to school half an hour each way, like every day for a year. Oh wow. Basically. And then it became the first was the first show that I took her to and she was seven. We saw it at the tail end of the run with the original cast. I now know because there dates in the credits the day after they shot the movie, like they they shot it up till Tuesday night. We saw the Wednesday matinee and the next day. So I loved the show. I mean, I have it memorized. I think it is a great and complex work with flaws that it is strong enough to hold up to having them discussed that upset. You know, like a cataclysmic in a good way, I guess, like profound effect on American theater. It’s just shaking things up in a really interesting way. And I think that’s great. Well, record, since you felt like you had you had more to say on it, why don’t we? But you say some of that right now. You can get this sort of the right, you got it right up front.
S1: I feel like a lot. There are a lot of sort of historical critiques to be made that are like of the sort of more nit picky variety. And I kind of don’t care as much about those as about the question of like this is still a white, really white story. And I wonder what you guys think about that. I mean, I read again, it’s because I read so many critiques before I saw the thing. Right. I felt like I had even gone back and looked at some of the critiques again before I saw it today. And as I was looking for it and thinking about it and even the parts of the story that seem to be trying to make Hamilton into an underdog, which in some senses he was. But, you know, I mean, the point that he is an immigrant who is like really trying really hard to get to the top, but he is an immigrant from one part of the colonies to another part of the colonies. So really the same I don’t there’s a lot of sort of like a celebratory American success story to it that I feel like is unearned by the actual history. And I just wonder that Gordon Reid, the historian, said in one of the critiques that I read this morning, if this was a case of all white people, like, would this be an interesting show? And I think it’s still like it’s obviously virtuosic in the way that it’s put together. And right. And then executed. Even I a musical theater fool, can see that. But it just bothers me. I don’t know.
S6: What do you think resonates with me a lot? My first impression upon hearing it was like the 19 year old black kid in America. So we connect in any way or least I never connected in any way to the founding of this country. You never felt like it included me. And so, in a way, watching that really been these people that we’re so familiar with, so very progressive. To me, it was kind of the first time I was like I saw myself in this movie. And then. As I got older and kind of got more familiar with now. Not that familiar with. As I got older and just smarter, it just became very clear to me that it basically allowed more people to have access to a myth. And so, in a way, having access to that myth felt powerful. When I was like 19, but as a 24 year old, now I’m kind of just like I understand the appeal. And I kind of understand why so many people connected with it. But it also just kind of chapattis in so much of what we are tearing down right now. Listening to it now and and hearing Christopher Johnson, it’s Washington naming that people are rioting. There’s a difference. Right. It kind of the moment we’re in, there’s just so much about isn’t that just you’re like we’re actually paring back statues of these people. And yet I’m also obsessed with let’s play that kind of thing. You find them in this way and makes them work. And it varies like surface level, the way that people in American history in that period who are progressive and who do kind of have the same kind of ideological standards that were holding them to like the first person to die in the Revolutionary War. Some say it’s because this Addicks, who is indigenous and black. And so we don’t see those people in history and we don’t see them in Hamilton. And so the people we do see in Hamilton are like 21st century avatars of diversity. And that’s not really what any kind of like economising of history is going to be about, really.
S1: Mike Pence, go to see it like a couple days after he got in office. For example, like this, not threatening Mike Pence’s vision of American history, for example.
S8: Well, but then but then at the end of the end of the show, Brandon Dixon, who is, I think, playing Burr at the time, like came to the left of the stage and told him off. Yeah. So there have been I would say he was directly threatened by that, but he was directly confronted by the cast, you know, at the show and in basically saying, like, don’t use your attendance at our show to kind of present yourself as something you’re not you’re not some sort of like whatever like post-racial hipster just because you like to talk your way to Hamilton. One thing that was interesting for me, I saw the screener of this was a few days before it actually arrived at Disney Plus and it was an introduction to it, which I was surprised didn’t end up on Disney. Plus, I guess it was just for press, but it was just it was limited. My Miranda and Thomas Kael, who directed the stage production and the film, you know, in their respective corm teens, you know, on headphones talking about it, you know, limited. Well, Miranda said two interesting things about that have really stuck with me. One is that, you know, this is originally going to be theatrical release coming out in October of twenty twenty one. They’re releasing it now because there are no movies, because in the Heights, which were supposed to be the big Hollywood blockbuster of his previous musical, has now been pushed to next summer. But another thing you said is like we can’t gather right now, like those are his words. And I think that’s really kind of a powerful idea to me that like so much of what’s been taken from us right now is the ability to experience, you know, life, theater or music or any kind of performance together in a public space, in a physical proximity to other people. And the other thing he said is this just kind of went by like he didn’t make an emphatic point of it, but he said that he was what he is proudest of with Hamilton is the opportunities that he was able to give to people. And, you know, one way to think of the show, and that doesn’t answer the historical questions one way or the other, but is just as a sort of a huge floating jobs program for black and brown theater actors. You know, many of the people in this production, I mean, the most amoc, we’re not, you know, stars when they were cast. Seeing them this production, it’s kind of impossible to believe that that wasn’t the case. It’s sort of impossible to believe five years after the show, let a number it that all of them are huge stars now. I mean, it’s I I as a writer, I’m sort of selfishly grateful that the person who got the most fame and money out of this big production was the person who wrote it. But it is kind of bizarre that, like Debbie Diggs and Rene Goldsberry are like on every TV show and in every movie until now. But I mean, that is, you know, I think you have to sort of factor in just it’s like real world effect on top of its significance, sort of, you know, stand a little work of musical theater in history.
S6: Yeah. I think the most progressive thing about Hamilton isn’t necessarily its ideology, but it’s like the actual practice to use it right now.
S2: So I’m kind of what did I miss moment? Because when I went back, I was just starting to talk about. I mean, it essentially kind of whitewashing of the show. Right. Does the fact that it uses the multiracial casting to sort of cover race essentially consider? Nature is a celebration. The founding fathers, right? That was basically kind of your argument. I guess I’m just wondering, I heard that little bit as I was losing touch with you all. But I want to hear what the next round of talk was after that. Rachel, I know you had something to say about the kind of colorblind casting idea and how that feels different now than when the show first aired.
S5: Yeah, definitely.
S6: As I said before, you were in the ether when I first sight, good sense to me because, I mean, just I don’t have any connection to the founding fathers of America just because I mean, they owned people will look like me and we’re probably related to me in some way. And so I think when I first watched it, it but progressive colorblind casting felt progressive in a way. It’s like I can see myself and like George Washington. But this 40 years later, as we’re tearing down statues, people who like the founding fathers, like, why do I really want to feel a connection to George Washington and kind of what’s left out of Hamilton? That would have actually made it progressive. Like, it’s kind of weird watching it back and hearing Hamilton kind of go after Jefferson for owning slaves when most of the people on that stage that they’re representing own slaves like he married into a prominent slave owning family, like those people are missing. But the only time we really hear references like in cabinet battle and then when Thomas Jefferson mentioned Valley ending and if you don’t know value exists, just hear him say, Sally, can you go get this for me? And so I think the casting was great. I’m like a fundamental practical level in terms of getting a lot of otherwise opportunities in the door for actually being progressive. And it’s like ideology doesn’t necessarily hold up.
S8: There is like a third cabinet battle that was cut from the show, but it is, you know, recorder. There’s a demo online where, like Hemingford directly goes out slavery. And it’s about, you know, the previous compromise and sort of saying, like, we’ll look, we’ll deal with this, you know, in 18 or eight or whatever it is. Hamilton drops sort of an explicit like Sally Hemings just bombed that like it really goes right after him for that. And it’s interesting to think that he thought that was important to write and then that he cut it from the show. Really? Maybe. Yeah, maybe because it was too distracting. Or, you know, if you open up that Pandora’s box, you kind of can’t then not deal with that for the entire rest of the show. But that’s you know, we’re.
S1: There’s definitely a thing where Thomas Jefferson gets to carry the guilt of slavery for all of the founding fathers and like not just in Hamilton, but in a lot of, like, founding fathers conversations. So, yeah, I don’t know. There’s that there’s a way that, like, he becomes the bad one and it’s just insufficient.
S9: Right. I mean, this is the kind of the problem with the great man or evil man theory of history. Right. Is that ultimately this story can’t help but tell history through the point of view of people, individual people, their desires, their mistakes. I think it does an incredible job at doing that. Like the characters in the play are extremely well developed, especially for basically not talking and developing only through song and dance. But it does make that fundamental attribution error of attributing history to individuals rather than, you know, systems and movements since three of the four of us have seen this as a show on stage. And I mean, I got I didn’t get a chance to do my two cents at the top, but I was actually not to brag. Lucky enough to see this twice onstage, once to talk about on the Slate Culture Gabfest and to actually get to interview to be digs in. And Leslie Odom, which was fantastic. And then because I loved it so much. Eventually we say that’s some you take my daughter to it. And she loved it, too. And it became an obsession. Our producer Faith put up a picture so I can remember my golden times on stage with Leslie to be my buddies. I really wish now that before I had talked to them, I had. I had. I knew the show better. I had just seen it once. At that point, I didn’t know the cast album super well. I hadn’t read the Ron Chernow biography. It’s based on which I’ve now read and I would have had so many more questions for them if I had known a bit more. But I guess I want to maybe switch to talking about, since three of us have seen this as as a play and then the other one of us doesn’t like musicals in the first place to talk about that. Translation, translation from stage to screen and how you think that works. In other words, how does this function as a film? And you know, when you were watching it and looking at the choices that the director, Tom McHale, was a director. Correct. Of the movie, you also directed to play on stage. When you look at the choices he had made. How did that make them? So you read differently for you. How do you think it might have been filmed differently or better or worse? I’ll start with Sam. What do you think? You’re a film critic.
S8: I mean, I think you did. I think it is a lot better than serviceable capture of an obviously extraordinary performance. I think I get the sense watching this, that Thomas Kael spent a lot of time watching Spike Lee’s movie Passing Strange, which is a similar kind of filming a Broadway musical sort of insitu in the theater, you know, while it’s happening. And I think that’s incredible. I mean, I think Spike Lee is just an incredible director of performance films generally. And so I think it took a lot of inspiration from that. And that is why is. It still has a kind of like PBS, like souped up PBS, great performances. It’s nice that they like the way they did. It was they shot a Sunday matinee going to Tuesday evening performance live. And then they spent the day in between. I think they shot 13 or 16 numbers. They just brought the cameras onstage. And did, you know, crane shots and close ups and stuff like that. And that definitely adds to. You do see a lot of it. I was not particularly close to the stage when I saw it. So just being able to see the nuances of those performances. And they’re really not often when you get that close to a stage performance. People can look really bad, like it’s one of the reasons from theater often doesn’t work because the performances are just people are playing to the rafters. Everything just looks kind of oversized and goofy. I guess maybe because the show is so stylized to begin with, that doesn’t bother me too much. I mean, you’re right. And Jonathan Gross face as he’s singing the King’s three songs. I mean, he is doing saliva all over the lands, just like guises of spit flying from his face. And it’s still kind of amazing. And other glue, but a turd, you know, sort of down, you know. So just being able to see, like, the little exchanges between people, there’s some great sort of like defeat. Diggs smirks these guys and playing a lot, often getting such a copy son of a bitch as Linda Moreno plays Hamilton, especially for that. He’s also just really kind of, you know, smug and like photocell. There’s a lot of great little smirks and interactions and lots of little you know, the choreography is very dense. And I feel like there are a lot of interactions that I can’t imagine how many times you would actually have to see this onstage to get all of that. So it’s really great to to have that on film. And it’s I watched the first half of it with my daughter yesterday and just she was picking up on all these, you know, lighting and staging stuff. And she’s eleven now. And I know she’s gonna be like a theater kid or not, but I just think I’m just thinking of, like, theater kids having the opportunity to, like, study this show in that detail. I don’t think it’s like an amazing show in terms of like as a work of theater. Like, I think the direction or the staging is particularly interesting. But those performances, like just people to study those clothes in this detail, is really just extraordinary. I’m so glad that, like, not everybody, but a great many people now have the chance to do that.
S7: Yeah. One example of that that I noticed, Sam, is just little little performance details that you wouldn’t have been able to see, even sitting pretty close in the theater, I think. Like the fact that as Lafayette when TV Diggs takes a drink from his goblet, he always has his pinkie up just to be friends. This tiny details like that. Rachel, did you have. Did you have something that you noticed in seeing that translation?
S5: As a former member of the Tumblr community, God bless.
S1: I love it.
S5: I’m like I’m doing a lap on myself right now. But it’s like actually it’s full of theater kids who have, like, bootleg copies. I mean, do you like the play? Actually, a lot of talk about staging and lighting. And so I also did not have great seats to go to. I bought it on an interim salary. And so there were things that I was looking for. There’s like the dancing. They’re like singing like they were a prize when they’re drunk after Hamilton gets like Mary or Dana by Dana.
S6: But there’s also this part when Phillip dies, where Eliza pulls her hand away from Hamilton. And I think that’s something you don’t see when you’re, like, really far back. And it also makes when she grabs it in the next scene, I just need a lot more. And yeah, I was actually I was grateful for the film. I was. I don’t know what your soundtrack too many times, watching something on screen after you’ve heard it so many times, you kind of start tuning out visually even because you know what’s going to happen and even if you haven’t necessarily seen it that close. So I can’t watch the super closely. I really enjoyed being able to see everyone’s expressions. And I really think that it gave a lot to the because, you know, you don’t do that. You remember acting for the Raptors you like. I don’t really see what they’re doing. I’ll be like you can see him the way that you did moves that he was an actual rapper, like just the way that he talks like those you just don’t notice. Obviously, if you walked into the beat, did anyone else something that’s good.
S1: He’s a wonderful, wonderful dancer.
S7: I mean, he just tells us his character through his body so much. Right. I mean, his entrance as Thomas Jefferson at the beginning of Act two is, I think, one of the high points of the play. And it all has to do with his his way of moving. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
S8: This movie was, I mean, shot like probably like over a year after they recorded the, you know, the cast album that we all or everyone except Rebecca has committed to memory. And just like getting a sense of how. I mean, the performances in the studio and onstage are going to be different anyway because people are kind of like gasping for breath and doing the choreography and everything else just to hear, you know, how differently they’re playing. The roles are. Definitely they’re hitting different lines like a year later. It’s just like a whole there’s a whole, like, you know, term paper in that definitely Chicago with a completely different cast.
S5: I think they like it’s so different. I think different a lot. But like, just say you would think it was a different title. I think, you know, one of the things is that Hamilton is sexy, which, you know, Randy’s opposite of sexy.
S1: So that’s what I work for. All right.
S7: All right. Something to say there, which is that times I saw it was was pretty much the original cast. Almost everybody except for both times. Well, he is part of the original cast, but both times it was Harvey Munoz who is you aren’t even called the understudy. He was the other co Hamilton from the beginning of Inception. And along with Lynn and I just happened to hit two nights that year. So to me, he was Hamilton and he’s a much more kind of virile performer, you know. He’s completely different. He looks at they look a bit alike on stage, but he’s much more. I describe it like aggressive and not as sort of ingratiating as Lindman. Well, so even though I was used to hearing Lean on the Cast album, and I’m really glad, of course, that I got to see it with the guy who made the whole thing. I can see how, especially in the rentals pamphlet and, you know, the sex stuff in the second half, how Harvey Harrison is better suited for the role. But that’s an interesting question. Let’s just float the question of Len really quickly. As a performer of his own material, I mean, I think that we can all agree, maybe even Rebecca, who’s not a fan of the whole project, that, like, it’s it’s kind of extraordinary verbal work and musical work that he’s created. Right. But is he. Is he in a Ben Affleck situation where he should not be performing in his own material set back from the play or.
S5: Don’t be. When is the best thing? Or rapper. I think that’s very clear. It’s about the person who’s writing it, performing it. But I don’t think I would have necessarily known that had I not seen the Chicago cast like Mikkelsen, Bronx’s. Hamilton made the character a lot more legible. When you watch him, so then you’re kind of like, that’s when you’re not like that. Hamilton Like, I look at him and I’m like, oh, this is the guy who’s taking them all on the soundtrack. You know, the distinctive voice that you like. Look, you can’t quite separate Lind’s persona from Hamilton, the character. I’m glad that he’s not doing anything right.
S8: I think I was always taught about this, just like on Twitter the other day. And I feel like living memoranda is not like if he were not the writer of the show and you were casting for that role, you would never cast and he would not even get a callback. I don’t know that I’d want to see him, like, play the lead in anything that he didn’t write. I mean, I think he’s a very charismatic person and a lot of ways. But, like, I haven’t seen him now when Mary Poppins returns like that. It’s not like you stop that stuff, you know. I think there is something ineffable, you know. I mean, you’re to read through. And, you know, this is a story about a writer with the writer person wrote it playing the role. And then there is just something in that. And I think he embodies that. He uses the word scrappy to describe M.F. And there is something very scrappy about like if he were, let’s say, more obviously sexy or, you know, a better singer or rapper, that scrappy equality, you kind of might not be there. You know what? I think he is a couple. He’s very good at like the chopped up voice. Look at the gate. You know, there are a couple of powerful tricks that he has, and that’s one of them. And the use of that. Like that like. It’s quiet uptown, you. Stuck in the third. But it’s like that really works like gangbusters. But I do wonder just amazingly, just because I mean, did just this show even work with a whole other cast? Because, like, I can’t I mean, I can’t imagine anybody other than to be dig’s playing Jefferson. I can’t imagine not being, like, taking that role and not being completely terrified of it like that just seems impossible to me. But I’m well aware that many people have. I just can’t imagine it.
S5: I can say that it does work. The guy who played in Chicago and I was also curious how you like going to see how am I ever going to like this now? Not to beat it. I feel like we all just love to beat. But it didn’t.
S7: I mean, as you were saying, it is also it’s a it’s a great launching ground for your young actors of color. And I know my sister, you saw it with the San Francisco cast, said that she thought the guy who played Washington and she loves Chris Jackson on the on the cast album, but she was saying if that guy was every bit as good and was possibly more technically advanced singer, I mean, it just seems so exciting to me that there’s all these companies doing this all over the world. Right. With different people interpreting the rules in different ways. I will say that this struck me sometimes and use this is more a critique for for Tommy Cale than for the show. As a director. But I thought that it was sometimes trying to be cinematic a little bit too hard. It was so afraid of being a stiff proscenium play stuff on the stage with one camera angle on it, that the camera was sometimes cutting on action, that I didn’t want it to cut on showing close ups when I would have rather seen the whole stage. There was a Busby Berkeley moment, at least one where the camera was way up at the top at the ceiling, you know, watching the kind of Sheba’s advancers arrange themselves. And moments like that sort of took me out of it. I would have preferred erring on the side of stagey ness to going too far into the realm of, you know, where directing a a basketball game. Promo trailer or something like that, where, like, the action is so stressed that you don’t you don’t sort of see that the whole shape of what’s happening on things.
S1: I wonder about that, because I feel like as a non theater person, I needed that stuff. Like I needed to feel like I could see what was happening a little bit.
S7: Yeah. I mean, it was and it was actually done in the sense that, you know, you’re always looking at the person who the action is centering on at that moment. But sometimes I did I didn’t want to see just that face necessarily.
S8: It was interesting, like I was reading up on the production today and apparently because they had I mean, they shot this movie in twenty sixteen. They finish editing it in 2018 and then we’re kind of, you know, tinkering of it. And eventually, as I said, we’re going to release it next year. But you know, it’s been finished like a couple of times. And Tommy Kael apparently watch Fozzie Burton, which limited memoranda like executive produced and played a small he played by Fozzie for like five seconds in that. But apparently that a lot of those showier kind of Busby Berkeley moments and the more frenetic cutting this came out of him watching Fozzie Bourdon and maybe some Bob Fosi with these as well. But those were all like recent addition to they weren’t sort of part of the original plan of how it was going to be together.
S1: That’s interesting from the point of view of a person who is like a relative newbie. I want to ask about the sort of the informational aspect of this. So, like, beyond the question of like, is it accurate or even like. Is it politically progressive is just like did you understand what was going on? I feel like there’s just so much like historical information poured into into things. And at times I felt like that was, again, as a newbie, like as a person who’s not absorbed in the soundtrack the same way that you guys are. I felt like I just was missing a lot of stuff in it so many times. I just was like, I’d rather just read the book. Like, can I have, like, a story about like a bunch of charismatic young people who have a rebellion, which is basically what it is, and then like have love affairs and entry. And then can I read a separate book about the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention? Because, like, I don’t I’m like it’s like a lot of it is kind of past me. And I wonder if you guys ever felt that at the beginning when you first encountered this piece of intellectual property and whether that went away once you became steeped in it.
S7: Dean, do you mean actually lyrically, Rebecca, deeming it like you are? Because I mean, I’m sure this was true the first time I heard it, that you were having problems just keeping up with all the words coming at you.
S1: Yeah. Keep me off the words, but also keeping up with what’s conveyed in the parts of the plot that are not about like the personal conflicts between the people that are about the stakes of the founding of the nation and the different arguments that people are having. I follow ungrounded and a lot of that stuff, despite knowing like a little bit of it from other historical reading.
S7: I wonder what historians. I a what I’m seeing it is just how would how would this strike someone who had no familiarity with the material?
S8: Sorry, Sam, I need to talk to you about the banking stuff. Lost me, but I think about it still. I would still not get it. So I’m just all of understanding that stuff.
S1: Well, I mean, there’s also the other thing where people who have read a lot of books about that stuff are like, oh, it gets it wrong in this way. In this way. In this way. And so maybe, you know, maybe it’s better just to have it wash over me and not think about. Too hard. But it did. Like, sometimes irritate me. Trying to catch it and trying to incorporate that sort of light to your historical part of it with the more personal parts.
S7: Yeah. The show asks a lot and the viewer in that way, which makes it somewhat surprising to me that you became this pop smash hit and, you know, your whole kids love it and stuff has huge parts of it are about things like, oh, well, should the government assume the debt to the states and things like that that are pretty dry historical concepts.
S1: Yeah, I wonder. I mean. So, Rachel, you said that you started liking it when you were 19. Did it make you slash your Tumblr? Hamilton fandom friends want to know more about that stuff or what? What kinds of interest in the history did you guys have from it?
S5: Yeah, I was. I was like I didn’t make fandom. I’m a worker in fandom with very real. Does everyone else. It’s like a little bit like far past my enthusiasm level. And I’m like, like, oh, slave. Like I’m still black. I can’t be on the same level. But I think that it never made me want to read the biography, for example, like I never really wanted to read beyond what was happening. But I will say that there were certain things that, like, you get kind of like indoctrinations. Who is someone who goes to school in America that I didn’t really understand like me for the longest time. I didn’t. I understand why Washington left after two terms, both like, what’s the point? Ya was here for four terms. And then I think I understood more about the nation needing to move beyond the charismatic leader. I don’t understand that it was in the Treasury. So I think amusical that made me actually want to learn more about the time period. And it’s probably just because I grew up listening to American history, like, for example, they move like when I read that, like wash out for the first time, I was like, oh, I want to know more about this, like small rebellion before, like the big rebellion, like what’s going on here. The actual best books going where the barricade boys. So I went to this play, made me want to die. The Roots of the Revolutionary War. But I will say it made you understand some minor things a bit better. Mm hmm. I would not teach this as a like a class.
S1: Well, I wonder if anyone’s done that. It’ll be interesting to try to, but it seems awful, since pedagogically exhausting would just be like trying to be cool by being like we’re going to work.
S8: Yeah, well, there’s a point at which you sort of be like, well, you know, this isn’t historically represented, like, you know, accurately represent Hamilton’s, you know, positions unlike national debt and credit. And it’s like, well, also these people were black and they didn’t rap like I bet if you like. You know, it’s very clearly telling you that this is not accurate. Like from the second, like Arenberg steps onstage. You know, if you don’t know at that point, it’s been fighting the last week. You see a lot of the critiques that I’ve sort of felt like got completely exhausted like five years ago. But like, I know you’re going to do it now. And so there’s like, oh, let’s look at history and we’re in a can’t sing. And one of them is like, oh, this is bad rap. You know, I don’t like this because I’m a hip hop fan and I’ve read it. And it’s like, well, it’s not you know, it’s a hip hop musical. But like, both of those words are important. Like this is like Serena McConnell’s swinging something like very smart about this, where she was saying, like, this is kind of a musical that, like, just adds hip hop to the Great American Songbook, you know, so there’s like, you know, boogie woogie in ballads and kind of neo classical and all this other stuff. And hip hop just like works its way in there. So it’s a musicalized version of hip hop, like no one, you know, partner to be dig’s. Like, these people are not like, you know, rappers that they cast in this. Some of them are, you know, more proficient in it than others. But the version this it was gonna be like an actual, like hip hop mixtape, which is supposedly what like Lin was working on it versus like a little horrific to think about. Yeah. And, you know, and that’s like the you know, like if you actually have like a rap, I mean, people are talking about like, you know, the Battle of Yorktown or whatever, that would be an utter nightmare. So it’s just in this context of a theatrical musical that just we’re that’s one of the elements that comes in. I think it’s like that. It makes sense that way at least.
S5: Yeah. I feel like it’s not good. It’s like kind of like that street hip hop musical. And if you take it like any of those three things separately, it’s stuff that doing that one thing really like mine did not make an excellent point. Exactly. It’s like I’m not going to I’m not going to teach this and say, see, like, this is not the great example of hip hop. Okay. It’s a it’s a good musical. So it’s it’s kind of like doing that.
S1: But like any other, I’m not going to like the best of Lidington and I don’t really care whether or not it’s accurate in a way, because, I mean, I just kind of give up on that kind of motive critiquing historical entertainment. But I do think that it’s riding on the idea of historical accuracy anyway. Way like art, not accuracy, but like historic nest’s, I guess like. If it’s OK to bring in this question we have of your question from a buzz, Anderson, who asks. I agree it was a good musical, but why did the world go nuts over it? That’s the question I really like. And I think that that like that quality of like you’re getting history with this, like a wholesomeness that allows it to be like a thing that goes to the White House and that Obama gives, like, props to. But it’s also I mean, you wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t trying to be like in some way a historical thing. That announcement in some ways that tries to have it both ways, both like be a historical thing, but also be like self consciously like. No, obviously, this isn’t this isn’t real. But what do you guys think about that question? Why do you think the world went nuts over it?
S5: Cameron said this. It was a morning show back then or three and or I saw it on Twitter, but it kind of sums up the Obama minutes, like it’s kind of the defining product of the Obama administration. And it came at the end of that administration. And I think it. Kind of fully summed up with so many people love about Obama, which is this kind of symbolic, regressive this that if you don’t like. Well, maybe not. I think that it kind of. But there’s a hope there and a way in which said it allowed people to claim a history that they were a part of but never felt a part of. I think that’s why for people who look like me the way I think, that’s why it got really popular.
S6: Look, I think they’re just like a lot of people who never felt like they were in American history in any defining way, just like they never felt they could be president. And then you see Obama and you see Hamilton in here. These being very accessible. And so I think in terms of an entry point of like progressiveness, that that’s what it is like. You should read a little bit more beyond that. But I think that for what it was, it gave a lot of people. Gave like a lot of people, just like a space to see themselves. Like, it’s kind of the best definition of like representational politics. And those politics have issues with them. But it’s a very great example of what it is, really.
S8: As with Obama, especially if we found like now as the you know, the rosy glow of his presidency is kind of worn off. I mean, you’d be real is like all presidents, kind of. He seems like, you know, still seems to me like maybe the best, like actual person to hold the office since I’ve been alive. But, like, he did terrible things because like all presidents do terrible things you’d like to drop. You know, it’s not like drone strikes on funerals and stuff like that. No, you apparently can’t occupy that office up to him like something awful. So, yes, you scratch the surface of like any of these people in this play and they’re like all have done something terrible somewhere. But, you know, it is flush with the optimism of that era, as Rachel said. And inevitably, like, if you look at that a few years later, like maybe you were overdid it a little bit, like we thought things were better and changing. And it’s like, oh, they got much worse. So are you sort of looking at, like, you know, smiling picture of yourself in college when you don’t know what’s going to hit you gradually in January?
S1: Maybe you’d end up teaching it in a classes like a document of the Obama era rather than like trying to teach it as a like US history book. You teach it as like a historical document.
S5: Yeah, I mean, things like that optimism, so much of the American mythos that this is like the greatest piece of the world.
S6: Like there’s just such like an inherent optimism and exceptionalism in American identity. And I think that a lot of people just never felt that. And then you kind of look at it, defeat exactly. Thomas Jefferson.
S5: And you’re like it’s like a little a little twinge of happiness. And then you kind of examine that you.
S10: Well, I feel like the utopian energy of the show is really irresistible. Actually, the actor Heath Sanders tweeted about this and had some really interesting things to say about it. Who is an actor of mixed race who’s always had mixed feelings about the show, but also the night of I guess it was July 3rd, the night that it was going to premiere on Disney was excited about it and was posting about how, you know, this show is seductive and you can’t resist it seductions. And maybe you shouldn’t resisted seductions, but just, you know, as you experience it, experience it critically, or at least bring that critical eye later on after you’ve enjoyed his pleasures because we’re down to the last ten minutes. I definitely won’t talk about the ending, especially with Sam, who had a whole piece in Slate, just about the ending of Hamilton and what you see in the film that you don’t hear on the cast album. But before that, because we feel like we’ve been a little bit dower treatment of it so far and I think all. All right. But it’s important that I ask is when I talk about its pleasures a bit, because personally, I will say that I in 2020 did not feel a need to revisit Hamilton. And hearing that it was coming at Disney plus made me feel not cranky toward the show, but a little cranky toward Disney said honestly and just, you know, trying to get us all to subscribe to to watch their big blockbuster show. But on July 3rd, the night it premiered, I didn’t watch it that night, but I was noticing people reacting to it on social media and it including a lot of cranks who I think had really made a whole personality out of not liking Hamilton or musicals before, who, unlike Rebecca, did not resist it, who were saying, oh, I have to admit, this is really catchy, you know. And it was kind of fun to watch it vicariously seducing people and taking over their pleasure center as I think this musicals really good doing and musicals are in general. So can each of you tell me some something in it that you love, like a moment or a performance or a song like something that brought you unexpected pleasure? I just start with Rebecca because she’s a crank.
S1: Oh, yes, sir. It’s been mentioned a little bit, but Jonathan Groff numbers, as does the third hour, were so funny and spot on and I had no idea he could sing like that. It is amazing. I love. I loved every second of those parts.
S7: Yeah. That’s a really, really fun part. It’s a tiny part of their lives. All right. But the king just has you in the palm of his hand. And I have to say, I didn’t see Groff in that role. I saw Andrew Rannells. Speaking, and he was so damn funny. I mean, the audience is just like waiting to go home with him. So adorable. All right, what about you, Rachel?
S6: I mean, to be Abby, obviously my favorite part of this entire musical. I feel like he’s just gotten to know things. And I love being able to see him in this specific thing that, like, launched him into, like, most of our collective orbits that guys whatever.
S5: Yeah. I mean, I love musicals. I think they’re very corny and they’re very earnest. And if you are a person who like kind of a verse in a way, it’s very hard to sit through. But I deeply love corny things. And so I loved it. I love it.
S7: Yeah, it’s pretty irresistible in that way. I mean, I find I’ve seen it twice and last week and it pretty much got me both times. What about you, Sam?
S8: Yeah. I mean, you said unexpected pleasures. And I feel like, you know, most of the pleasure that I’ve gotten from it were expected just because I know the show so well. But I mean, one of the things I’ve really enjoyed is just like little moments of not even choreography or performance, like there’s a lot of, you know, lyrical musical callbacks to earlier parts of the show. People pick up other people’s lines and stuff like that.
S11: And just seeing that, there’s actually like little bits of choreography that come back to like when Hamilton is saying you got love for you get hate for it, you get nothing if you wait for it. And he does like a little sort of mockery of, like, Leslie Adams, you know, like, amazing. No. That he’d just kind of like turn it into this complete shit talking him. And I love, like, those little callbacks, too, which are so, so kind of theatrical in nature that, again, just like getting up close to a bunch of the performances like this, just those sort of fierce, like, you know, intelligence of wit, really it’s go through it really was for somebody in an early interview, like just the kind of swing in Chris Jackson’s performance as Washington, like he’s so he’s even farther off the beat than debate. He’s just like kind of in his own universe, but always kind of comes back to home like regular natu. I think it’s just an extraordinary performance.
S10: Yeah. Chris Jackson, there’s a moment and it kind of goes back to stuff that you can see in it in the film version you couldn’t have seen in the play. But did you notice that Chris Jackson’s first entrance as Washington, he backs onto the stage with the camera’s behind him? Right. So there’s this great little moment, almost like a, you know, just behind the scene, standing in the wings, a moment where you see his fierce Washingtonian expression as he backs onto the stage rather than the back of his head, which is all you would see in the theater. I think maybe my unexpected pleasure, although I loved it in performance to it’s just something that really popped on Fillmore was Philip Azouz performance as Elysa, which is so quiet. Right. I mean, it’s part of her character to be quiet and reserved. And her performance compared to Rene was leaseholds. Varies is less. You know, obviously she takes up less space on stage. Right. And her character takes up less space. But there’s a sense, almost very relaxed quality to her and her performance in this movie. And her singing is so effortless and so pure. She just has an incredible soprano. I think as a part of the ensemble, I had certainly appreciated it or when I saw I didn’t. And I’ve always pictured here as that character. But it gave me that same feeling you were talking about with dates. Rachael, of just how could anyone else ever do this? Imagine replacing you. All right. We’re down to our last five minutes. And so we needed time with the ending. This is a spoiler special. There’s not a lot to spoil in a property that people know as well as they know. Hamilton But Sam, tell us you’re at your argument and the you know, the questions about the ending, the fan theory as to that it started to revolve around Eliza’s very last moment and maybe describe for somebody in the show or play it wanderlust.
S11: But there’s there’s a couple little moments that are in the show that did not make it to the album. And the biggest of them that people know is sort of like the secret scene where Hamilton finds out about John Warren’s death, which I think they cut from the album just because it was too long or because that scene is like actually mostly spoken. But there is this one moment at the end, which I remember really shocked me when I saw it, because I knew the album so well is, you know, the album gets to the end of song and everybody’s kind of fades out and use this unison note and you assume that there’s just like the lights fade out and then they come back up and everybody claps. And when you see it, what actually happens is that Hamilton leads Eliza to the lip of the stage. Hamilton is dead at this point. Spector leads her up there. She’s taken over from her as the narrator in that last song. She is the one who’s taking over charge of his story, placing herself back in the narrative. And she goes to the lip of the stage, looks up at something into the lights as that last note is going. And she just leaps out. There’s this expression on her face. It just kind of like wonderment and fear. And the movie gets you, like, right up close. And she just lets out this kind of gasp. And that’s when the lights smash to black and like Lindman, well, is completely refused to explain it. He was just tweeting today like the gasp is the gasp. Philip assumed won’t say what she’s playing like sometimes, you know, it’s this stuff. That’s it. That sometimes it’s just Philip sees the audience. One of the more popular theories and there’s a cop going around about this now is that like that’s where Eliza sees the audience, like in the tick tock. It’s not even Hamilton leading or travel up the stage. It’s actually Lindman. Well, Miranda Mirando. Come out of character and shoving her like all these people have shown up to see your story. I reject that in part just because I hate the idea that the last thing this musical might do is congratulate the audience for showing up. And the story’s so important because you’re here. It may be a very you know, it may be a very audience flattering work to begin with, but that’s just like too much. My feeling is, I mean, if you watch particularly the blocking of that scene, that would give me to go back and watch. This is true. Burn as well. When she uses you in that last scene, every time she does it, she kind of looks up as if she’s. And she’s talking to Hamilton, who’s dead, to his spirit or whatever. And she’s kind of looking up into the rafters and that’s where she goes back at the end. So it’s like her reunion with him. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the afterlife. I mean, it’s a it’s a show that’s kind of threaded through with, you know, biblical themes and scriptural quotes. But they’re mostly related to Burr because his grandfather was sort of extremely renowned preacher. But to me, there’s also there’s the idea that, like, you keep your loved ones alive by, like, telling their story. You know, that idea that, you know, the moment you die is the time. The last. The last time someone says her name and that by, you know, basically kind of curating his legacy that she was keeping their relationship alive, that there’s something really powerful in that and there is no gasp on the cast album.
S12: Did they did it did any of them ever talk about that, about why they didn’t choose to include that moment in the cast?
S11: I don’t think they have to be a really weird thing like on a recording. If you can’t see her expressions, if you like. What is that? Right. I think it’s better to just fade out on the record, but it is such a transcendent moment of the show.
S12: And I remember the first time seeing it on stage, being incredibly impressed with the ambiguity of the ending. You know, you might say that in some ways the show is a civics lesson and hammering stuff into your head that the end is very far from that. It just seems like this moment of transcendence that you can’t really pin down.
S7: OK. We’re at the end of our hour. Do any of you have any last words or thoughts or admonitions or warnings for people wondering if they should see you?
S1: Oh, I feel like people need to get a tween to watch it with or something. I feel like my lack of a tween in a serious way.
S7: What would you say specifically, any of you? Would you say that it’d be a good idea to know, do the songs a little better, that you should listen through a few times to maybe not feel that confusion that Rebecca did?
S5: Yeah, I think the first time I listened to the cast album caught 60 percent of what was going on. Maybe listen to it a few times. I’ll be a bit less annoying. I feel like this would probably not sit there, Rebecca.
S12: I completely agree. Yeah. I don’t think anybody should be. I mean, Rebecca. Yes. Because I want to hear her as a story and talk about it. But I would not say for entertainment purposes that anyone has to go see Hamilton if they don’t care about it. Then again, if you’re on the fence and you’re kind of like and not a musical person, as I say, I’ve seen in my own life someone be converted from not a musical person to really having peaceful. That’s a good point. All right. I think that is our spoiler, our first ever live point, especially with Slade. I’m sorry about my falling in and out of technological touch with you all that. I think I still got the conversation. It was great. Thank you to everyone who called in. You made this event really fun. We hope to do more with you soon. Please subscribe, if you can, to the Slate for weather special podcast feed. And if you’d like to show, you can, of course, read about it or read it or view it in the Apple podcast for which really helps people to find the show and other things. If you have suggestions for future spoiler specials, any movies we do shows you podcasts. You can send them spoilers at Slate dot com. Also, we want to send a big thank you to Faith Smith, who is behind the scenes figuring out all my bizarre technical problems and helping set this all up from a tech point of view. Thanks so much. And to British police who also helped produce this and obviously life events. Our producer today was Rosemary Bellson, Sam Adams, Rachel Hinton and Rebecca Onion. I am Dana Stevens. Thanks for listening. And again.