What a fabulous evening I had watching the Smash Hit Musical ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway last month! The show has had nothing but glowing reviews winning the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy award and no less than 11 Tonys on US soil and has now opened in London at the Victoria Palace Theatre where tickets are equally as sought after, making it the most popular production on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now I consider myself to be a bit of a Musical aficionado, - I actually trained as an actress before changing direction and joining the world of Fashion (not a lot of difference really, it’s still show-business) and I am lucky enough visit the West End Theatre’s regularly, often to support a friend, so I have seen many many Musicals. With that in mind, I do not state lightly that Hamilton is hands down the best Musical I have ever seen. Ever. And it deserves all the success it has had and more. It is no wonder that tickets are like the rocking horse proverbial.
Just to give you an idea of my varied taste, before seeing this one my favourite shows included Les Mis (a classic), The Birdcage (camper than Christmas), Chess (still sing this regularly in the shower) and Jerry Springer the Opera (I’m a sucker for smut) - so you could say I have a fairly well-rounded ‘palette’. This however shines more brightly than any of the above, for several reasons that I shall try to explain…
To give you a bit of context, we were extremely lucky to get tickets and were therefore crammed into the Gods in the Richard Rogers Theatre in an extremely uncomfortable seat for three hours - it is a long show. However, the time passed in a flash, not once did my usual monkey-mind wander off topic, and I think I held my breath for most of it!
The show charts the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who in his incredible life (and with a little dramatic license) was instrumental in the American Revolution, was embroiled in the first public American sex scandal, became Treasury Head and boosted the country’s economy and so much more. He lead an incredibly full life and the narrative whips along at a pace, with plenty of twists to keep you glued. The set is fairly simple, with a rotating central panel in the floor and a few key but minimalist props so the audience really had nothing to focus on apart from the 10 strong cast - which was just as well, as they all gave a superlative performance, raising the roof of the theatre, leaving most of the audience toe-tapping to the fabulous music, holding our breath at the tense moments and sobbing helplessly at the sad bits - yours truly included.
What really sets Hamilton apart from the Musical pack, is the fantastic music which moves seamlessly from rap and hip hop to jazz, to pop-opera which on paper does not seem like a winning formula but actually works brilliantly as it greatly adds to the momentum of the piece and keeps the audience entranced. The harmonies are absolutely sublime, and the whole show just feels incredibly fresh and contemporary, which is so refreshing as it breaks all previous musical moulds.
I must mention the lyrics - which admittedly are at times quite hard to fully understand during a first listen, especially during some of the rap numbers which are very fast - but they are genius! Incredibly pithy, relevant and so clever, some are written in the brochure and they are pure poetry - but really cool contemporary poetry that a teenager would appreciate just as much as you or I.
I must give a special mention to the role of the King - played on the night by Euan Morton who received excellent reviews playing Boy George in ‘Taboo’ in the West End. Morton stole the show, with a hilarious portrayal of a very affected, foppish and just a little camp King George III, and his initial disdain of America’s attempt to separate from the empire and eventual incredulity when they succeed. He repeats a version of the same catchy number throughout, and it wasn’t long before he was being cheered on with every appearance.
I haven’t stopped listening to the album since I watched it and it is now my soundtrack of choice to my daily runs. Every time I notice something new that is either just really clever, beautiful or very funny. Lin-Manuel Miranda has brought Musical Theatre screaming into the here and now and made it relevant and accessible to everyone, including the notoriously hard to impress Millennial generation - if only they were able get tickets!
‘Hamilton, An American Musical’ is playing at the Richard Rogers Theatre on Broadway and the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End. I highly recommend it.
If you have any questions for Miranda or would like to collaborate, please contact her via Instagram - @MirandaHolderLDN or via her website - www.MirandaHolder.London