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Theatre Review: Hamilton

Hamilton burst onto Broadway in 2015 and quickly gained not only attention but adoration, accolades, and prestige; winning 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Although not with the same zeal as in America, the soundtrack was soon being played, promoted and praised all over social media and chatter about the performance crossing the pond got me, and a lot of other people very excited. Before the soundtrack peaked my interest (which has now developed into a little bit of an obsession) in the protagonist, I had never heard of Alexander Hamilton, and I certainly had no inkling that he had such a profound effect on the world. How sad is it that someone with that number of achievements can be so overlooked by history.

Until now.

Hamilton is a triumph for many reasons, but the crown is that it makes a period of history not widely known, accessible and enjoyable; it explodes into our awareness encased in awe-inspiring amounts of energy, quick, intelligent lyrics, wits, and humanity. It takes what could be perceived as a dry topic and breaths into it not only life but memorability.

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Jamael Westman as Alexander Hamilton.

This alone would make it exciting but what really raises it up is that each element, of which there are many, is executed correctly. I was a little surprised to discover that there was no dialogue outside of the soundtrack but it added to the performance and, I truly believe, to the emotion and impact of the show. Not once has a historical election been so thrilling. No song, movement, interaction or piece of choreography was included for the sake of it; instead, they each add depth and progression to the story. As such, even if the tumultuous audience appreciation (and mine, there was never an instant when I didn’t want to applaud and cheer) did pull me from the story on occasion, I was quickly drawn right back in.

I have seen some phenomenal shows both on and off the West End, and each time I have been utterly in awe of the talent that those productions bring together. The cast of Hamilton London is no exception. The blend of musical styles brought together to tell the story of an almost forgotten game-changer, dictate an extremely fast pace, and an ability to switch and perform different styles at a moments notice. Ignoring the technical proficiency demanded of these cast members and which (to the albeit novice eye) they execute astonishingly well, the energy required and maintained is beyond comprehension. Yet, there is never a moment when the power slips, when the characterisation dims, or when all the aforementioned elements weren’t exactly where they needed to be when they needed to be there.

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Jason Pennycooke as Thomas Jefferson

 

I was beyond excited for this performance but was a little nervous that my love of the soundtrack and the number of times I had had it on repeat; including on the journey to London that day, would mean that I was bored, or that the ‘surprise!’ moments were lost on me. How unnecessary my trepidations were. Yes, I may know just over half of the soundtrack by heart but in no way did that prepare me for the emotion, excitement, exhilaration, and drama of seeing it played out in front of me. Not only this but hearing and seeing it completely revolutionised the way I saw many of the characters I thought I knew. Burr was the biggest surprise. Vulnerable and oh so human it was impossible not to sympathise with him. Similarly, the depth of emotion behind actions, words, thought processes is something which cannot be fully experienced or understood just by listening.

 

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Michael Jibson as King George

 

If you can, do go and see this performance – you will not be disappointed. As I mentioned on Instagram the other day, it is a little mad, and it would be utterly impossible to perfectly describe the atmosphere, the talent, or just how much fun this musical really is. Don’t throw away your shot at seeing it, make sure you’re in the room where it happens; it’s the only hurricane you will not want to avoid.

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