Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer of the famous musical “Hamilton,” (2015) recently announced that his beloved musical representing the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton will become a movie in fall of 2021.
Miranda wrote “Hamilton,” which won 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama, intending for it to be performed in front of a live audience, so many at California Baptist University are interested to see how it will do on the big screen.
The Walt Disney Company bought the film rights to the musical for $75 million and is planning to release a film with the original Broadway cast, recorded at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan.
Frank Mihelich, assistant professor of theater, discussed the challenges in producing film adaptations of musicals. Theater and film are not the same thing, he said, and when people put these in the same category it becomes a matter of money, which “immediately makes theatre a second class citizen because there is more money in film,” Mihelich said.
“When I go to a theater, I want to experience something that I can only experience in a live audience. If filming can communicate the same power of a story as it does in a play, then it really should have been a movie all along. I question how some of the elements in ‘Hamilton’ will be able to be produced in a film, especially because it is historical,” Mihelich said.
Money is a central component in the adaptation of a musical. Ryan Lee, junior theater major, mentioned that this is dangerous because it harms the creativity of a musical.
“There must be a good reason to adapt a musical into a film. They should only make musical versions if there is something to add in a film version, but not just for the sake of doing it. I think Disney bought ‘Hamilton’ as a publicity stunt and a way to show their power,” Lee said.
“Hamilton” is one of the most successful musicals of all time, meaning that it would likely do well on the big screens.
However, since Disney is planning on releasing a recording of the original Broadway cast, audiences may potentially be less interested since big-name actors will not be tied to the film.
Maxine Adjei-Dadson, junior film major, explored the pros and cons of both theater and film. She stated that theater is more interactive, which is a hard quality to reproduce, but film is more accessible and easier to adapt. Adjei-Dadson predicted “Hamilton” will not create the same effect on screen as it does live.
“Disney is a family company that likes to err on the side of caution, which I don’t think will work for ‘Hamilton.’ I think the film will diminish the overall quality of ‘Hamilton.’ Disney will almost definitely have to tamp down some key plot points such as Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds,” Adjei-Dadson said.
Combining the worlds of theater and film can be a hit or miss, so it will be interesting to see how this treasured musical does on the big screens and whether audiences adore or reject this film.
The “Hamilton” movie will be released in theaters on Oct. 15, 2021.