HAMILTON • LONDON VICTORIA PALACE
REVIEW HAMILTON: GROUNDBREAKING MUSICAL TRIUMPH IN LONDON
The revolutionary hip-hop R&B musical Hamilton lives up to its wildly hyped reputation in an innovative production at London’s Victoria Palace, where the style, tone and execution of Hamilton seems to deliver a bite of the recipe for the renewal the musical genre could use.
Hamilton took Broadway by storm when it opened in 2015, unleashing a tsunami of sold-out houses and record-breaking ticket sales. Only now are tickets within reach for mere mortal musical and theater fans.
The industry’s top awards have been raining down on the musical written by New York-born multi-artist (actor, rapper, singer-songwriter, author) Lin-Manuel Miranda (43), who is believed to have earned upwards of $100 million from Hamilton alone, which he also played the title role in on Broadway.
Hamilton has now arrived in London’s West End, where a fabulous cast unfolds the story of Alexander Hamilton, who came to America as an orphaned immigrant and ended up as one of the founding fathers of the United States, George Washington’s right-hand man, and one of the most influential figures in the American Revolution.
The fact that many people can relate to Hamilton’s humble origins gives him street cred and may well be part of the reason for the musical’s enormous popularity.
The story delves into Hamilton’s complex life of political rivalries, amorous scandals and, of course, his dramatic death after a duel at gunpoint with political arch-enemy Aaron Burr.
Hamilton had insulted Burr at a dinner party, including declaring him unworthy to be governor of New York. When the taunts were published in a newspaper, Burr demanded satisfaction, and Hamilton was not the type to give in.
A former artillery officer with active combat experience, Hamilton was a tough son of a gun who also became the young nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and ran a tough economic policy. He was said to be the result of a meeting between a Caribbean whore and a Scotsman. Bring it on!
An absolutely formidable battle rap between the two combatants is one of the many highlights of the show.
Early in the morning of July 11, 1804, the two men faced each other on a dueling ground in New Jersey. Hamilton fired his shot into the air, deliberately missing his opponent. But Burr was serious. Hamilton was hit in the stomach and died of gunshot wounds the following day.
The duel remains a significant event in American history and a reminder of the destructive consequences of political rivalries.
In other words, there’s plenty of meat to the story, but the sublime thing about Hamilton is the execution, which several international critics have described as a game-changer in the musical theater industry. I couldn’t agree more.
The show is a state-of-the-art musical cornucopia, with a mix of hip-hop, R&B, rock, ballads and Britpop that blows the audience away from the first beat.
Rarely have I seen such a razor-sharp cast of dancers and singers of picture perfect mixed diversity, in a non-stop insistent performance so full of stage power.
Seamlessly blending the simultaneously tragic and triumphant historical narrative with modern music, sweaty beats, popular culture, subculture – and lots of humor.
The English King George, who doesn’t seem to have grasped that the colonies are breaking away and the empire is about to collapse, is absolutely brilliant in his McCartney-esque pop number You’ll Be Back, beautifully dressed in ermine robes and gold brocade, but completely stripped of any sense of reality. It’s gorgeous.
The choreography is brilliant, the set design impressive, the costumes downright captivating in a mix of sexy, tight-fitting riding clothes, long-heeled boots, romantic vintage ruffled dresses and dominant, powerful uniforms.
London is a coveted destination this fall. Hamilton is worth the trip – experience a groundbreaking musical triumph that may well set a precedent and bring new modernity to the genre.
On my reviewer visit, I also (re)experienced the classic Les Miserable, now in its 38th season and still a tour de force of top-shelf musical theater craftsmanship. But despite top-notch singers, stunning stagecraft and an impressive set design, it feels distinctly old-school compared to Hamilton.
Other recommendations for top entertainment are Kosky’s Rhingold at the Royal Opera House, as well as the incredible Abba Voyage show, both of which are reviewed here on Go To See This