14 Filmed Stage Productions You Should Watch If You Like Hamilton

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When the announced 2021 theatrical release of the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton" was thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, its premiere was expedited to Disney+ streaming in July 2020. Filming live theater productions for home or theatrical consumption is nothing new under the sun. This particular streamed release, though, rode on the existing success of the much-hyped Grammy, Pulitzer, and Tony-winning founding father musical, penned, composed, and performed by Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Inevitably, the hip-hop musical's release to a wider audience became a springboard for dialogue about staging that was initially unseen by listeners who only knew the soundtrack, the censoring of its infamous F-bombs counts, the contradictory "progress" of dressing people of color in colonialist garb along with criticism's of how the musical "whitewashes American history," and the benefits of accessible recorded theater. Live captures (the term debatably applied because it involves post-production edits) can reach an audience who can't afford travel and tickets to the exclusive region of the production, thus stimulating and expanding conversations and criticism. 

A camera cannot capture the rhapsody of being in the same room, but multiple angles and close-ups can enrich the experience for home viewers. We gathered 14 other musicals, filmed on stage, that are available to watch now — those that share artistic lineage with "Hamilton," its contemporaries, or milestones in theater streaming and broadcast history.

Rent

At the age of 17, Lin-Manuel Miranda witnessed the original Broadway production of "Rent," composed and written by the late Jonathan Larson. Over two decades later, Miranda directed the film adaptation of Larson's autobiographical musical "tick, tick... BOOM!" which stealthily chronicles how Larson would craft "Rent." 

"Rent" became a groundbreaking hit in 1996 and is often cited as a gateway musical for millennial theater fans. While rock musicals were nothing new, "Rent" was credited with changing the game for Broadway as a sung-through rock opera with little dialogue in-between. Contributing to its popularity, "Rent" kickstarted the Broadway in-person bargain lotteries that filled its seats with younger theatergoers. 

Inspired by Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme," the story revolves around bohemians living and loving in New York City during the AIDS crisis in the 1990s — albeit as witnessed through an aged, cis-white-hetero centric lens. The bohemians resist paying rent, fall in and out of love, make art that matters to them, and honor their loved ones. 

After a 12-year run, the final days were shot and theatrically screened as "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway" in 2008. On-screen, before Renée Elise Goldsberry originated the fiery-tongued Angelica Schuyler in "Hamilton," she flexes her dancing and melismatic talents as the vivacious Mimi. "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway" can be watched on Prime Video or Apple TV.

Come from Away

There's a Mister Rogers axiom that advises people to look for the helpers in times of traumatic disasters. When the Twin Towers in Manhattan were attacked by hijacked American planes in 2001, 38 planes were diverted to the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador where the small-towners of Gander mobilized, fed, and sheltered almost 7,000 passengers — the eponymous "come from aways" — nearly doubling the town's population.

Premiering in 2017 (and still running at the time of publication), "Come from Away" did not initially wear the understood blueprint of commercial success on Broadway. Without a protagonist, it was staged closer to a documentary musical with various characters, playing real-life people or composites, functioning like talking heads. The foot-stomping score and humanity won many hearts and Tony Awards recognition. 

"Come from Away" reminds us that hospitality is in the specifics: kosher food, breakfast cooked at night for passengers of a different time zone, a private space for a Muslim man to pray in the escalating Islamophobic atmosphere. Performed on a minimalist set, the direction of "Come from Away" displays the directional acuity that won it a Tony for Best Direction. 

The 12 actors adroitly rotate around several roles, whether they embody the Gandarian helpers or the passengers receiving Gander hospitality, from a gay couple both named Kevin, an Englishman and Texas divorcee who fall in love, a Muslim chef, a mother frightened for her firefighter son at Ground Zero, and many more. "Come from Away" can be viewed on Apple TV+.

Diana: The Musical

Depicting the unhappy marriage of public figure Princess Diana of Wales, "Diana: The Musical" is a counterpoint to "Hamilton" and the Tudor-based "Six." It is a less stimulating, artistically licensed historical musical. That point isn't invalid when you listen to its head-scratching lyrics: "Serves me right for marrying a Scorpio," Diana mopes. All its flabbergasting creative decisions (including Diana's shirtless extramarital lover on a saddle and trenchcoated paparazzi singing "snap, click") render "Diana" a humorous instruction in how to make a nonserious bio-musical — and also a good musical to get drunk on. 

When the pandemic postponed its Broadway premiere and cut its previews short in 2020, "Diana" became a unique example of a Broadway production releasing an available filmed recording before its official Broadway premiere. The film recording, which wasn't shot before an audience, was reviled against the more critically successful "Come from Away" (of which it shares its creatives). 

Despite lyrical surgery, its subsequently short-lived Broadway run was scrutinized by critics once again. Its Broadway run also scooped up a cult following in the theater community — its own social media and Diana's actress, Jeanna de Waal, got in on the joke. You had to be in the room where it happened to witness heckling, snickering, guffawing, hooting, and cheering. You can experience its recording, its pre-revision state, on Netflix. Pity it doesn't have the raucous audience reaction or de Waal flashing a cheeky glance at a cheering audience when she sings, "Scorpio."

Sunday in the Park with George

The legendary composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, a mentor of Lin-Manuel Miranda, composed his (arguable) magnum opus in "Sunday in the Park with George," a George Seurat bio-musical as he dabs the pointillist dots and specks that comprise his richly textured "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" portrait during the 1880s. The artistic genius who isolates his beloved ones is a theme that interests Miranda, who cameoed the musical's PBS airing in his directed musical feature "tick, tick... BOOM!" Not unlike the restless Jonathan Larson in Miranda's film and Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton," Seurat fixating on his ambitions strains his relationship with his romantic significant other.

A stranger's legacy can live on forever if an artist chooses to paint you, Seurat's exhausted mistress, Dot, ruminates. Brimming with profound ponderance on the immortalizing qualities and the painstaking precision of art, the musical resonates with those who struggle to formulate their artistic vision. Starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, the original 1984 production of "Sunday in the Park with George" can be experienced on Apple TV.

Pacific Overtures

"Someone in a Tree" shares thematic themes with Aaron Burr's 11 o'clock showstopper "The Room Where it Happens." Not only is it one of Stephen Sondheim's favorite songs, but the song also encapsulates the micro-details of history, the eyewitnessed intimacy, and the curiosities of the blank spaces within history. Who said what in a meeting that decided a country's history? What was unheard? What details were missed? What can be excavated from witnessing the gestures behind closed doors?

The introspective song marks a tenuous meeting in the 19th-century set "Pacific Overtures," when the Western colonial powers and the Japanese are negotiating in the treaty house. In the musical, the emperor, samurai, and shogun have conflicting interests in how to adapt or fight back. Although authored and directed by white men, the 1976 "Pacific Overtures" was notable for flipping the script on the white-centricity with an all-Asian cast. It employed the technique of people of color playing white roles to grant narrative power to the former. For example, the U.S. historical figure Commodore Matthew Perry is depicted as a beast in Kabuki makeup and with menacing choreography. 

With the late Mako narrating front and center, "Pacific Overtures" covers the span of Japanese resistance — or surrender — to the engulfment of Western influences. The recording was the first Broadway musical to be broadcast in Japan. Without it, there would not be access to one of the most fascinating productions in history. A recording of the broadcast can be watched here.

Allegiance

Premiering on Broadway in 2015, "Allegiance" deals with an immoral racist chapter in U.S. history that classrooms struggle to acknowledge. At the signature of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, the U.S .military herded Japanese Americans into internment camps and forced them to endure devastating conditions and lasting wounds and scars — all because they looked like those who bombed Pearl Harbor.

"Star Trek" actor George Takei remembers the day his family was forced at gunpoint and taken into those camps in his memoir "They Called Us Enemy." Takei produced and starred in the musical "Allegiance," which is loosely inspired by his experience. He plays the grandfather of the main Japanese American siblings, Keiko and Sam. As the Californian siblings and their neighbors endure their imprisonment at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, the community figures out ways to survive and resist. 

Eventually, the prisoners confront the dilemmas of whether to double down on pledging American loyalty and join the American war cause or resist the military drafts. Internees began to turn on each other, and the tragic family fissures lasted beyond the terms of their imprisonment. "Allegiance" can be streamed on Broadway On Demand and ordered on DVD.

Newsies

The 1992 Disney musical movie "Newsies" was a cult classic saddled with disorganized structure as much as it was blessed with plenty of heart and dancing talent. The 2011 stage adaptation of "Newsies" streamlined the plot, reimagined a passive love interest into an active journalist with backstory, and translated its athletic choreography for a live jaw-dropping spectacle. There's nary a moment where someone doesn't show off their vocal or athletic prowess with Alan Menken's songs.

In a story ripped from the headlines of the New York City newsboys' strike of 1899, the paperboys busy themselves selling papers on the streets to put food in their bellies and pay their bills. However, the New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer jacks up the price of the newspaper, which hinders the paperboys' already struggling business. Led by the plucky Jack (originated by the charismatic Jeremy Jordan), the paperboys ultimately decide to strike. The ensuing brutality tests Jack's faith in solidarity. You can watch the "Newsies" sing and dance on Disney+ or Prime Video.

Passing Strange

Originally a Berkeley premiere, "Passing Strange" had its 2007 off-Broadway premiere at the Public Theater, the same building where "Hamilton" debuted off-Broadway. Boasting an intoxicating and electrifying score by Stew, "Passing Strange" quakes with thrills, jubilation, and restlessness as it absorbs its audience into the ego of an emerging artist. 

Based on the life of Stew, who narrates the story, the disillusioned Youth tears away from the middle-class bubble of Los Angeles and his loving but overbearing mother to find his own artistic liberation and voice in Europe. From the laid-back Amsterdam to chaotic Germany, Youth scours the artsy landscape to find "the Real," release, and meaning. Through a tunnel of drug trips, failed romances, and artistic exploration, Youth discovers that he had missed out on the meaning of home.

When the show ran on Broadway, director Spike Lee planted 14 cameras and captured many angles of the musical with footage vigorously edited by his collaborator Barry Alexander Brown. Released as Lee's debut at the Sundance Film Festival, the result is a high bar for kinetically shooting live captures of stage musicals. "Passing Strange" can be viewed on Prime Video.

Bandstand

Directed by "Hamilton" and "In the Heights" choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the 2017 "Bandstand" on Broadway may be a glossy depiction of PTSD for commercial digestibility — in a similar vein of "Newsies," with its starving but athletic paper boys. However, the energetic choreography and the pulsating swing, bebop, and jitterbug score make it a worthwhile journey.

Struggling to reintegrate into society, World War II veteran Donny Novitski cobbles together a band of fellow veterans and enters a national radio contest to rise to glory. When Donny recruits the widow of his late brother-in-arms, Julia Trojan, as the lead singer, he struggles to confess a devastating truth about what killed her husband on the battlefield. At the climax, the band is gobsmacked by an artistic and moral dilemma: Do they perform a palettable presentation of their experience, or pour out discomforting truths about the veteran experience for the public ears? "Bandstand" can be streamed on Broadway On Demand.

The Exterminating Angel

Consider this the operatic outlier in this selection. The year "Hamilton" went on streaming during the pandemic, the Metropolitan Opera served free streamings of a production every day before its reopening season. One offer was the opera "The Exterminating Angel," by composer Thomas Adès and librettist Tom Cairns, which adapted Luis Buñuel's 1962 black-and-white surrealist classic. 

As it transpires in Buñuel's movie, socialites assemble for a dinner. Then the party guests discover that a cryptic force is keeping them in the room. No closed or locked doors, just an inability to exit the room. Their sanity frays by the days. "The Exterminating Angel" certainly felt like The Accidental Pandemic opera, despite the lack of a literal pandemic in the premise itself. 

The production boasts two soundscape gimmicks unique for a Met production: The whistling ondes Martenot instrument that injects a comic B-movie aura and the record for the highest note sung on the Met Opera stage. This upper-crust schadenfreude can be watched on Met Opera On Demand.

The Pirates of Penzance

In "Right Hand Man," from "Hamilton," General George Washington introduces himself with, "I am the model of a modern major general." It is an alliterative reference to the relentlessly parodied patter song, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's 1879 comic opera "The Pirates of Penzance." The source material lyrics were: "I am the very model of a modern Major General, I've information vegetable animal and mineral, I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical." From "Despicable Me 3," "Family Guy," and "Animaniacs," the song and its parodies are a gold mine for laughs and a ripe showcase for a performer's vocal velocity. 

After all, the enduring appeal of "The Pirates of Penzance" is its silliness. The Queen Victoria-era tale begins when Frederic's indentured servitude to hilariously incompetent pirates has seemingly ended when he turns 21. However, because he was born in a leap year, he's strung back into piracy. 

Filmed for the New York Shakespeare Festival, a 1981 Wilford Leach-directed "The Pirates of Penzance" production can be watched on BroadwayHD or Marquee TV. Kevin Kline is deliciously funny as the Pirate King among a uniformly great cast. There is one caveat: The recording aged badly with grain and bleached overexposure. Otherwise, the also Wilford Leach-directed 1983 film adaptation, where Kline and others reprise their roles, might be a substitute. The film adaptation can be watched on Prime Video or Apple TV.

Daddy Long Legs

The 2015 off-Broadway production of "Daddy Long Legs" boasts a historical milestone as the first-ever off-Broadway musical to ever be livestreamed. Marketed as clad in the spirit of Jane Austen, the Brontës, and "Downtown Abbey," this two-hander epistolary musical chronicles the letters sent and received between a young woman and her benefactor in turn-of-the-century New England. 

The grown orphan Jerusha Abbott is thrilled to receive college tuition from an anonymous benefactor. He stipulates that she must write letters to him once a month to exercise her literary skills — while he writes none back and reads none of her writings. She assumes he's an old white-haired or bald elder, when he's actually a younger man. Eventually, his curiosity gets the better of him and he breaks his own rules to read her letters and becomes enchanted with her as she grows into her independence. Starring real-life couple Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin, "Daddy Long Legs" can be watched on BroadwayHD.

She Loves Me

Following the 2015 historical livestream of the off-Broadway chamber musical "Daddy Long Legs," the 2016 "She Loves Me" revival became the first Broadway show to be livestreamed. It was an experiment in building hype and ticket sales for a currently running production against the conventional wisdom that broadcasts might hurt ticket sales.

The plot originated from the 1937 Miklós László's play that also inspired the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan 1998 rom-com, "You've Got Mail." Like "Daddy Long Legs," this larger-scale love story involve letters and two lovers yet to truly meet. This time, the lovers are two rival parfumerie clerks, Amalia and Georg, unaware that they are romantic pen pals. As the truth begins to splash out, the two learn to love each other in person. (Drama also happens in the workplace.) On stage, Laura Benanti as Amalia and Zachary Levi as Georg are a killer comic pair, spewing acid before opening their hearts to each other. "She Loves Me" can be watched on BroadwayHD.

What the Constitution Means to Me

"The Constitution's full of contradictions," Aaron Burr argues to Alexander Hamilton, to which the latter responds, "So is independence!" Even for those who like "Hamilton," the artistically licensed history within "Hamilton" has been critiqued for the glorification of the American Experiment built on genocide and slavery. Thus the question: Should the Constitution (authored by white male slave owners who uprooted functioning Indigenous societies) be revised, or should we abolish it and write us a better one? That is the debate question that caps every performance of Heidi Schreck's 2017 play, "What the Constitution Means to Me," with the audience deciding the winner.

Schreck grew up enamored with the Penumbra, the shadow of implied rights. For her, it contained the possibility of establishing someone's rights. However, springing from the Castle Rock v. Gonzales SCOTUS case that failed a domestic violence victim, reproductive injustices against women of color, to the intergenerational trauma in Schreck's matriarchal lineage, Schreck scrutinizes its failure to protect women, especially women of color. This isn't just an education on vocabulary like "positive rights" and "negative rights," but a reflection on the frustrating inertia of progress. Schreck does not treat subjective and emotional reactions to legal consequences as divorced from intelligence.

Schreck's play can be watched on Prime Video. At the end, Schreck does the aforementioned debate with teenager Rosdely Ciprian, who alternated with Thursday Williams on other shows. The "Extras" option on Prime Video features Williams' debate with Schreck.