Hamilton; Victoria Palace, London
Reviewed 16th March 2018
Hamilton requires no introduction. The sell-out success by Lin Manuel Miranda has quite literally taken over America and has hopped across the pond and is now taking the UK by storm. Already gaining 13 Olivier Award Nominations (beating the previous record) amongst numerous accolades and rave reviews. The biographic production tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the most important, yet frequently ignored, founding fathers of America. Told via Hamilton himself, Eliza, his wife and Aaron Burr – his confidant, friend, side-kick and eventual enemy the audience is treated to an original book, score and lyrics written by Lin Manuel Miranda.
So is it worth the hype? The queues? The extortionate ticket prices? The answer: YES! This show is a true masterpiece. Starting with the unique score and lyrics which tell the story so eloquently in a modern, hip-hop style. No matter your preferences when it comes to music genre and style you cannot deny the power of the music and the lyrics. Each song tells part of Hamilton’s story, is rooted in history and yet is modern and fresh. The cast excel at ensuring the the audience hear and understand every word. Their intonation and expression is fantastic throughout. The harmonies are gorgeous as are the subtle repetitions and one liners. The interesting melodies and repeated phrases are a perfect way to engage the newer generation and get them interested in the history of America. Almost everyone will have heard numerous song quotes and lyrics from this production before stepping foot into the auditorium, something that not many musicals can boast. More than this, the innovative style attracts a wider range of audience member yet managing not to deter anyone either. A true feat.
The staging and direction by Thomas Kail is unique, intricate and mesmerising. As is the extrordinary choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. The choreography is fresh, modern and innovative. Taking root in hip-hop and contemporary styles, the choreography brings the historic story to the 21st century and compliments the iconic score. The dance moves are polished and the talented cast perform every move with control and passion. The entire cast are never far from the action, always appearing to the side of the stage with subtle yet perfect movements. The use of a central revolve is also fantastic, particularly during some of the stylish sections of the show.
Lighting, designed by Howell Binkley, further adds to the show. Creating images on the stage, highlighting characters and intensifying the dramatic scenes. The set, designed by David Korins, is a marvel. A simple-yet-hugely effective backdrop enables all of the cast to be seen and involved. The props used throughout the show are effective and the transitions are stylish and choreographed to become part of the show. Once again the lighting helps to further improve the backdrop with the strategic uplighting and colour shifts. Finally, the costumes by Paul Tazewell are fantastic. Fitting with the era and yet managing to be contemporary as well. Each costume is intricate and well designed for the character. The ensemble members receive the most costume changes and this is done with ease and fluidity.
The UK cast are all extremely talented. With many cast members playing two characters through the show and a huge amount of understudies and covers the cast themselves have to be equipped for anything and highly skilled. Something they certainly are. Jamael Westman excels as Hamilton himself, showing the founding father’s journey beautifully. Rachelle Ann Go is amazing as Eliza, the passion and emotion she shows is just superb as are her outstanding vocals. There are too many cast members to mention in such a short review but those who stood out were Leah Hill as the Bullet for her commitment, style and grace whenever she was on stage; Tarinn Callender for his humour, super vocals and great transformation from Hercules Mulligan to James Madison; Jason Pennycooke for bringing a fantastic comic aspect to the characters of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson; Giles Terera for his effortless emotion displayed throughout the show as Aaron Burr; Gabriel Mokake for his understudied role of George Washington and Michael Jibson for the hilarious take on King George – something for which worked especially well for the UK audiences.
Do not be mistaken in thinking that this show is all about one man; Alexander Hamilton. In actual fact this show demonstrates true teamwork. The show may be named after Hamilton and be telling his story but the other characters and ensemble members are just as much of a focus as anyone. After all, ‘who lives, who dies, who tells your story?’ It is not Hamilton himself, but those around him.
This truly is a masterpiece. A one off. A fresh take on the term musical. Innovative, stylish and spellbinding. Don’t throw away your shot to be in the room where it happens, you certainly will leave satisfied.
Hamilton is playing at the newly renovated Victoria Palace in London. For more information and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy