Victoria Palace, London
It’s worth the hype… Like many other musical theatre nerds, I jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon just over two years ago and haven’t stepped off since. Swept up in the unique style of the show and the inclusivity of it, I fell in love and couldn’t wait until I would finally see Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s musical about the rise and fall of the USA’s first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
During the past few months, while the show was being primped and preened for its arrival at the newly renovated Victoria Palace theatre, it has been receiving more press and excitement than Prince Harry’s engagement! Even as a huge fan and supporter of the show, I was getting to the point where I thought there was no way it’d be worth it. Then I saw it…
Die-hard Hamilton fans are probably expecting everything to sound identical to Leslie Odom Jr’s Burr, Miranda’s Hamilton or Philippa Soo’s Eliza, and we can’t help but compare to what we’re used to from the Original Broadway cast recording but thanks to the power and brilliance of the London cast, all these comparisons fade away. The entire company pump in soul, heart and skill to the glorious narrative created by Miranda, musical supervisor Alex Lacamoire and director, Thomas Kail.
Giles Terera is charismatic and sharp as Aaron Burr, bouncing brilliantly off of the suave, likeable Jamael Westman as the titular, Alexander Hamilton. The two are perfect as the historical frenemies as Burr begins to resent Hamilton for rising in the ranks of office. Giles has some of the most iconic moments of the show with some truly show-stopping vocal sections, especially in the epic ‘Wait For It’ and jazzy, ‘The Room Where It Happens’. Jamael tackles the huge role with skill and ease, showing his brash side in big rap numbers, as well as his more emotional, Shakespearean side towards the end in his final monologue and the heart-wrenching ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’.
Whilst these two talented men lead the cast, there is not a weak link anywhere. Powerhouse Rachel John is sassy and strong as the heartbroken Angelica; Rachelle Ann Go manages to be innocent but powerful at the same time in her performance of Eliza who falls for, is betrayed by and eventually forgives the man she loves. Christine Allado as “and Peggy” is particularly humorous as she bounds on stage with a childlike quality in the opening and is contrastingly seductive as Maria Reynolds in act 2 when she belts out ‘Say No To This’ with ease and drama.
West End newbie Tarinn Callender is suave as Hercules Mulligan and full of dry humour as James Madison. Jason Pennycooke is frantic, hilarious and all round brilliant as Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. His fast-paced, faultless rap is perfectly balanced with his acting and smooth movement around the stage and he’s certainly a standout. Obioma Ugoala wows with his vocals as he belts ‘One Last Time’ and as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton, Cleve September is strong whilst maintaining his childlike quality. Michael Jibson as King George steals every scene he’s in. When I say he’s hilarious, I mean laugh out loud, unforgettable moments hilarious. Every movement is perfectly thought out and he milks each line with precision.
The ensemble are sharp and outstanding, with In The Heights alumni, Courtney-Mae Briggs capturing my attention throughout. The precise choreography is one of the ultimate parts of the show, it’s sharp as sharp can be and mirrors the action to perfection. Like the music, each aspect of on stage drama is reflected by style. Hip-hop, operetta, lullaby’s and more embelish the spirit of the moment.
I could continue to rave about this show but I fear that could turn into a full dissertation so here’s where I’ll end. Hamilton is truly groundbreaking, it challenges the status-quo, brings a freshness to the West End and breaks conformity by casting people of colour and challenging racial tensions. The show embodies representation in every way and is a spectacle to behold.
Hamilton lives up to the hype and is unforgettable. It’s cool, unique and diverse as it subverts the typical language of storytelling. Find a way to get a ticket and see this show!
photo credit: Matthew Murphy