Lin-Manuel Miranda Recalls What Putting Hamilton On Disney+ Did For The Broadway Show

Hamilton was a hit on Broadway long before it made its way to the small screen via Disney+. But when the musical was professionally filmed over five years ago, composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda had no idea that the movie would blossom into an overnight sensation and lead to an even higher demand to see the show in person - or the lasting impact the Hamilton pro shot would have on the Broadway community. 

Sara Eisen of CNBC recently caught up with Lin-Manuel Miranda to discuss the impact of Hamilton’s streaming release. The blockbuster musical was filmed back in 2016, and was meant to be released in theaters sometime in 2021. But when the pandemic struck, Disney elected to celebrate last year’s Independence Day by releasing Hamilton on the company’s streaming service. The movie was, unsurprisingly, a major hit - but at the time of filming, Miranda didn’t know how special it would turn out to be. He explained: 

I hope so, and I think you’ve seen - I can’t tell you how many calls I fielded from creative saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing a pro shot of our show now. And again, it’s tough, because it’s expensive. It’s very expensive to film your show. We were in a position to do it - we did it the week before I left the show in 2016. And we really shot it like an indie movie. We paid for it ourselves, we didn’t know what the value of it would be, but we said ‘let’s get it while this cast is in the building.

The original cast of Hamilton was a star-studded affair, with stage veterans like Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Daveed Diggs winning Tony Awards for their respective roles. It’s easy to see why the production team would have wanted to capture their performances before they inevitably left the show, but the filmed version of Hamilton had an unforeseen impact on the Broadway community. 

How so? One word: accessibility. Broadway producers are typically reluctant to release taped versions of their shows for fear that an at-home viewing experience will lead to a decrease in ticket sales. Unfortunately, that recalcitrance has contributed to the growing inaccessibility of Broadway shows, many of which charge over $100 for a seat in the nosebleed section. As Lin-Manuel Miranda can attest, however, the success of Hamilton on Disney+ has proved that Broadway’s fear of lost profit was unfounded. He said:

It forever demolishes the idea that a beautifully shot version of your show diminishes the demand to see it live. In all of our estimations, it’s only amplified the demand to see Hamilton live…That’s a win for theater. To make theater more accessible, to have more pro shots, to have those out in the world, I think is a win. I would love to see more of that going forward, if you can build that into your pre-production planning.

Here’s hoping that more Broadway shows will follow Hamilton’s lead. In the meantime, theater fans can head back to the room where it happens on Disney+. 

Rachel Romean

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.