West End Theatre Guide
Hamilton is a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda which was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography entitled ‘Alexander Hamilton’. The musical debuted on Off-Broadway and, propelled by its rapid ticket sales, it transferred to Broadway in August 2015, and the eagerly anticipated musical has now opened at the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre.
It follows the story of Hamilton both personally, with his wife, Eliza, and their children, and also portrays his life fighting in the American War of Independence to gain the colony its freedom from George III, and his contributions to the foundations of the current system of US government, treasury and financial systems.
One of the most important things about Hamilton is the show’s integrity. The musical remains true to the facts and doesn’t try to make Hamilton out to be a perfect man, as may have been tempting while creating a musical in honour of one of America’s oldest heroes. This is unusual, and refreshing to us, living in an age where people in the public eye are often held to some supposed higher morality requirements in their personal lives and are then criticised and ridiculed for falling short of that. Alexander Hamilton made many mistakes, including neglecting his family for work and having a secret affair, yet his contribution to politics and the founding of America is in no way less because of that.
The statements, themes and points made in the musical, both obviously for effect and subtly as audiences leave and dwell on the piece, can be paralleled with modern times. An example of this is the snappy line of “Immigrants: we get the job done” which gives an interesting spin on the xenophobic political trends of late.
Hamilton is an altogether modern take on this period of history, bringing it to life vibrantly, with modern beats and rhythms, the rap-style speech and musical numbers and the diverse cast. Perhaps the most refreshing part of the musical is the conscious casting of actors from a variety of ethnic groups. Miranda explained this as “…the story of America then, told by America now”. This highlights the progress we’ve made in the quarter of a millennium which has passed since the Founding Fathers and, also, a little of what we’ve yet to learn or mis-learned along the way.
In a phenomenal cast of actors, Giles Terera (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Black Bottom, Hamlet) is sublime as Aaron Burr and gives the standout performance of the show, particularly excelling with ‘The Room Where It Happens’. The relatively unknown RADA graduate, Jamael Westman (The White Devil, Torn) also shines in the title role, particularly with ‘My Shot’. Michael Jibson (Roots, Roadshow, The Comedy of Errors) gave a hysterical performance as the outrageous King George III and gave a wonderful rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’. Jason Pennycooke (Father Comes Home from the War, Guys and Dolls, Memphis) as Lafayette and Jefferson, Obioma Ugoala (Motown, Richard II, Henry V) as George Washington, Rachelle Ann Go (The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Les Miserables) as Eliza Hamilton and Rachel John (The Bodyguard, Memphis, Rent) as Angelica Schuyler also gave superb performances.
Hamilton is a slick fusion-musical which is rich with history, detail and patriotism and it delivers expertly crafted, snappy lines of dialogue via many genres of music. Does Hamilton live up to all the hype? That’s a very tall order considering the extensive media attention and theatregoers’ near-hysteria to obtain tickets and at performances, but yes, it most certainly does – and then some!