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Why the ‘Hamilton’ movie credits visually applaud every member of the cast

One of the illustrated credits designed by Chris Rubino for "Hamilton," streaming on Disney+.
(©2020 Lin-Manuel Miranda and Nevis Productions)

After Eliza’s final gasp, a fade to black and a lauded curtain call, the cast of “Hamilton” leaves the stage. Then come the closing credits of the film version now streaming on Disney+, which highlight each actor with individual cards.

“Part of the experience of the theater is thumbing through that Playbill at intermission and looking for that person you admire, finding their headshot and learning more about them by reading their bio,” said Thomas Kail, who directed the stage show and the movie. “This felt like the most appropriate way to celebrate this onstage company: creating a visual Playbill, using a cinematic language.”

To create the sequence, editor Jonah Moran pulled what Kail called “definitive frames and gestures that capture the essence of the characters you just watched, as if they were superheroes flying through the air. It was fun to give everyone in this company a chance to have that moment.”

Actors who played dual roles — Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones — had representations of both their characters on their card to show “the dynamism of these actors,” said Kail. “For example, the stillness of depth [Onaodowan] brought to [James] Madison and also the scope and scale and voraciousness of his [Hercules] Mulligan.”

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Title designer Chris Rubino then studied the aesthetic of “Hamilton: The Revolution,” the book recounting the making of the musical, and mocked up potential looks. The winning treatment gives a painterly quality to photographs of the cast, as if brushed onto gold-covered canvases.

“It was a nice way to bring something specifically cinematic to the movie that isn’t present in the play itself,” said Rubino, who also provided the visual for the truncated intermission (which would have run the full 15 minutes in a planned theatrical release but is just one minute on Disney+). “As a designer, my job is to silently enhance the experience, and help people to enter and exit the world of a movie or a TV show, kind of in the way book covers do.”

What does that final moment for Eliza Hamilton actually mean? Now that ‘Hamilton’ is on Disney+, director Thomas Kail addresses the theories.

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Musically, the credits kick off with The Roots’ remix of “My Shot,” featuring Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz and Nate Ruess, which was released as part of 2016’s “The Hamilton Mixtape,” the album of covers and tracks inspired by the hit musical. “That song acts as a transition out of the show and into the present. [And it demonstrates] how the show, which was finished in 2015 and telling a story set way back when, could be reinterpreted and reimagined by other artists,” said Kail.

Those who sit through the entire credits sequence are treated to an instrumental version of “Dear Theodosia,” and then brought back into the Richard Rodgers Theatre for the production’s final lighting cue. The live audience filed out to the orchestra’s bow music, which is not on the cast recording.

“It felt like the perfect way to give a round of applause for the orchestra, who is down there making music live, just like the actors do,” said Kail.

“We always have dozens and dozens who stay to listen to all of the bow music, so this is a chance for people who haven’t seen the live show to hear that, and experience what it’s like to be in that theater, that liveness we all miss so much right now.”

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