I’m barely able to believe my eyes as I find myself in the queue outside the Victoria Palace Theatre for the much anticipated Broadway success, Hamilton on its second night on the West End. The energy is palpable as the audience eagerly anticipate the hip-hop musical about one of America’s founding fathers.
Well, in short – it is worth the hype. Directed by Thomas Kail, this show is nothing short of slick. The choreography (Andy Blankenbueler, Stephanie Klemons & Carrie-Anne Ingrouille) is mesmerising, constantly moving the story along, portraying epic battle scenes with energy and accuracy. The ensemble play an integral role in the whole piece – all of whom are highly talented. It’s especially worth keeping an eye out for Miriam-Teak Lee (ArtsEd Alumna).
Naturally, the music by Lin-Manuel Miranda is out of this world – with elements of hip-hop, rap, R&B and classic musical-esque ballad numbers. My favourite song by far is ‘Schuyler Sisters’, and it certainly does not disappoint. The sisters bring high levels of sass and a stunning array of vocals. The oldest, Angelica Schuyler (Rachael John) blows my mind – she is by far my favourite sister, but Rachael brings a whole new strength to the character. You really feel the connection between herself and Hamilton, truly highlighting the tragedy of this love story. Her voice is strong, assured, and put simply – sublime. Eliza Schuyler (Rachelle Ann Go), brings a more classical musical theatre feel to the role, truly showcasing her vocals in the ballad, ‘Burn’. Goosebumps are had all round.
Michael Jibson brings the comic relief as King George, interjecting at various moments to complain about America’s independence. He gently oozes the laughs out of the audience, truly relishing every moment as he does. His scenes become a firm favourite, as the audience begin to chuckle knowingly as soon as he steps on stage.
Similarly, Jason Pennycooke who plays Lafayette in act one and Thomas Jefferson in act two is a massive ball of energy. His Thomas Jefferson is a fabulously camp, Prince-esque looking diva. Act two covers a lot of political ground, so his comic timing and energy helps keep the scenes light.
The biggest surprise is Aaron Burr, played by Giles Terera. As the “villain” of the piece, Terera’s Burr is witty and likeable. You begin to sympathise with his plight against Hamilton, as he works just as hard, but somehow misses the mark every time. Terera ties the show together, providing narration throughout and absolutely smashing ‘The Room Where It Happens’ with his soulful vocal.
And of course, we have the man of the moment – Alexander Hamilton, played by newbie, Jamael Westman. Although reasonably new to the industry, Westman shows sublime talent, performing with a level of calm and control, yet effortlessly expresses the excitable passion that sits within Hamilton’s character. It’s undeniable that he has a very bright future ahead of him.
But the whole show hinges on the inevitable shooting in the duel between Hamilton and Burr. When the moment eventually comes, the ensemble tackle it with precision – one member holds the bullet as it slowly nears toward Hamilton, as the others play out his life before his eyes. It’s a powerful, heart-wrenching moment as you read the minds of both men, fighting their own personal struggles.
Hamilton may tell a story of American history, but it proves itself to be the show of our time; there’s diversity, strong female identity, politics and pro-immigration (“Immigrants – we get the job done” was followed by a raucous cheer). Without realising at the time of writing, Lin-Manuel Miranda created the voice of hope and strength in a time of great darkness. If you’re going to see any show in your lifetime, make it this one.
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