After a lot of back and forth I’ve decided I’d finally like to give this blogging thing a go. Firstly, please excuse the appearance of the page. I am 100% completely new to the world of blogging and this is likely to be very much a work in progress until I get to grips with the software and brush up on my HTML.
I think before I get into my review I should explain a bit about how any theatre reviews I post on here will be structured. My plan is to split theatre reviews into sections:
- Set & Choreography
The aim of this type of structure is to keep the reviews themselves fairly focused. At the end of each review will be a summary along with a score rating out of 10. As with any kind of review these are all my opinions alone and I’d always encourage anyone to see the show themselves to make up their own mind.
Without further ado, I think it’s about time to get into the review itself!
This review is of the official opening night of Hamilton in London – Thursday 21st December 2017. I was extremely lucky to grab a return ticket (£37.50) for this performance only a week or so before the show. As this was the official opening night only the grand circle (the top level of the theatre) was allocated to general sale, with both the royal circle (middle level) and stalls (ground level) being reserved for members of the media, celebrities and other invited guests. Due to the nature of the evening there was no merchandise for sale (good for my wallet) but each member of the audience was given a special gift – a free programme with an opening night sticker. Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled with this and it’s become a treasured piece of merch!
I think before I get into the meat and potatoes of the review, I should be completely clear that I’m an unashamed, super Hamilfan. I’ve had the soundtrack on pretty much repeat for over two years and was completely in love with the show before I even saw it. This was also not my first time seeing the show as I was at the first preview on Wednesday 6th December 2017.
The plot of the musical is based on a 2004 biography of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow. We’re taken on a flying visit through this fascinating man’s life – from his early days, through his personal and professional achievements and controversies, to his untimely death. Admittedly the show does take some artistic liberties, removing characters and slightly changing situations to suit the narrative and flow of the show, but overall its remarkably succinct and accurate.
Personally I prefer the story points in act 1, which centres around the American war of independence from Britain, as opposed to act 2 which focuses more on Hamilton’s political and personal struggles once independence has been won.
The cast is led by Jamael Westman (no previous theatre credits) and Giles Terera (Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) who respectively play Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. I was particularly impressed with Jamael’s performance. He brought the swagger, confidence and defiance you’d expect from Hamilton’s character, and you could truly feel his character develop throughout the show. I’ll admit that on my first viewing I was not particularly impressed with Giles Terera’s portrayal of Aaron Burr, feeling he lacked the emotion necessary to show the character’s anger and desperation. I’m happy to say that he has now well and truly settled himself into the role, giving an absolute masterclass performance this time around.
The main female roles in the show are Eliza and Angelica Schuyler, played by Rachelle Ann Go (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) and Rachel John (Memphis, Sister Act). I really enjoyed Rachelle’s performance as Eliza but I was absolutely blown away by Rachel.
I’ll also give a shout out to George Washington, played by Obioma Ugoala (Motown), who was brilliant as the powerful leader and general.
Like I mentioned above I am absolutely OBSESSED with the soundtrack to this show and have been for more than two years. If you aren’t already aware the songs are a combination of rap and traditional musical. I could honestly write a paragraph about each song but in short the whole thing is complete genius. Even now I pick up on new references and links between songs. If I HAD to pick a few favourite songs in the show though I’d have to answer Satisfied, One Last Time and Room Where It Happens. I’m sure if you ask me tomorrow though those would be completely different…
Set & Choreography
Unlike most shows I’ve seen, the entire show takes place on a single set. There’s also no curtain dropped during the interval. The show makes ingenius use of this environment, and combines just brilliant choreography with several turntables built in the stage. It helps transport the characters from place to place in mere seconds, and really helps the show keep up its incredibly fast pace. I’m by no means a dance expert but I thought the routines matched each of the songs perfectly, from the military themes in Yorktown to the controlled chaos in songs like Hurricane.
It’ll be no surprise to anyone that I think this is probably my favourite musical, or even piece of theatre in general. The songs are brilliant from top to bottom, and the cast and directing in the West End version lives up to the hype generated by the Broadway run and then some. If you can get tickets (check for returns and you will) I urge you, go and see this show as soon as humanly possible.