Hamilton made history when it premiered on Broadway in 2015. Its popularity made its inevitable transformation into a movie a seeming inevitability -- however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused plans for that movie to shift. While Hamilton was originally intended for a theatrical release, Leslie Odom Jr. thinks there are a few upsides of having the film premiere on Disney+.
Five years later, Hamilton is still one of the most talked about musicals on the planet. Since it hit Disney+ over the Fourth of July weekend, a whole new wave of Hamilfans have fallen in love. Leslie Odom Jr., who originated the role of narrator/villain Aaron Burr and who plays him in the film, told Entertainment Weekly that as far as he’s concerned, Hamilton’s Disney+ premiere has worked out well despite the change of plans:
It's all been upside. It was really able to bring people some joy and inspiration at a time when they maybe needed it most. At the beginning, there was a part of me that was a little sad that I wouldn't get to lift Renee [Elise Goldsberry] up onto my shoulders and run her around a movie theater after ‘Satisfied,’ or that I wouldn't get to wrap my arms around Philippa Soo's neck at the end of that show and tell her how much she moved me. There was a part of me that was just a little sad that I wouldn't be able to be in close proximity with my brothers and sisters, to share this moment. But what has been revealed over the last few months is that this thing, it's impact and the way it's connected with people is way bigger than us.
The actor also noted that Hamilton’s arrival on Disney+ marked a new era for the musical:
A couple of days before the show premiered, Tommy [Kail] said, ‘Leslie, do you realize that more people are probably going to see you in this role this weekend then saw your entire Broadway run in the show?’ So the potential for that kind of scaling was hard for me to wrap my mind around on opening weekend, but I've certainly seen it since. Quite frankly, most of the people that are watching Hamilton on Disney+ are experiencing the show for the first time. It is their first experience of it. And the way that you can scale in that way with television or with these streaming platforms is, again, not anything we considered when we were preparing to open our off-Broadway show in 2015.
Shortly after Hamilton hit the streaming platform, Leslie Odom Jr. opened up about how meaningful it was to him that it would be accessible to a wider audience. Most people don’t ever get to see a performance on Broadway -- which means only a fraction of fans who found Hamilton through clips on the internet or the original cast recording were able to see it on stage before it arrived on Disney+.
It’s easy to see Leslie Odom Jr.’s perspective. While a theatrical release of Hamilton could have been a fun way for fans to get together and enjoy it as a group, its wider availability on screens in homes around the world is definitely a win.