I’d watched every interview I could, binge listened to the soundtrack since May, and finally the day came. On Saturday 5th January I finally saw Hamilton on the West end.
Though this was not a complimentary ticket (Like the majority of my theatre reviews), this post is, however, sponsored by the lovely people at Encore tickets! I worked on a post with them back in October and really enjoyed it, so given the opportunity again I was very down to share more of my theatre love, and review the upcoming trip I was taking to see Hamilton.
You can use Encore Tickets to find cheap theatre deals, so you can watch and sing to your hearts content. As a relatively broke Uni student with a lowkey addiction to musical theatre, it is unbelievably useful, so working with them was ideal. Some tickets that particularly jumped out to me were these cheap ones to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Company… I’ll most likely be coming back and purchasing both of those in the next couple of months (But not right now because I have 6 more shows lined up until April and I need to stop…)
(Update: I lied about not purchasing more tickets for while… I bought Company tickets like a week after I started writing this post, oops)
Granted, a rap musical about the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States does not sound interesting at all. In fact, that was the reason it took me so long to listen to the soundtrack… I really thought I wouldn’t like it. However, it is far more than that.
It follows the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers. Though I’m not one for a play about history (It’s one of the main reasons I hate Les Mis), it actually does a great job towing the line between informative and modern. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the musical score of Hamilton is one of the most modern out there, depite the historical plot. Almost the entire thing is sang and there is very little text, yet it doesn’t feel dreary and you’re not sat there waiting for them to stop singing. There are rap battles, R&B vocals, lies, sadness and deceit, and it’s genius.
Obviously, as I’ve explained, I had a lot of build up when it came to Hamilton. I had massive expectations and I was incrediby worried that the British cast wouldn’t live up to/would sound far too different from the original Broadway cast that I’m so used to listen to. Oh how wrong I was.
It was absolutely fantastic. Obviously, this cast are a completely different cast to the original Broadway cast, but I have to admit that they really held their own. They managed to approach things in their own way whilst still sticking to the original material, and it was great to see the performance materialise. Honestly, I could talk about this performance until I’m blue in the face, because there’s so much to say. However, you don’t have all day and neither do I, so I’ll try and cut it down to the main points…
Like I said, the cast was what I was most worried about. But they did a great job, especially considering how demanding some of those roles were to sing live. However, there definitely were some standouts for me…
I know that he also plays Madison – and his performance of Madison was incredibly solid – but I specifically listed him as Hercules above, because that is where he stole the show. I’d say that Hercules probably has the smaller role of the 4 friends, but Callender was one of the best to watch in their group scenes. From the beginning he radiated so much energy and charisma that he was kind of hard to take your eyes off of. He was the sort of actor that made you want to get up there and dance with him, which is exactly what you want with a show like this. Tarinn Callender did such a fantastic job with the character and I hope he’s there when I see it again in March (Yes, I’d already booked in to see it again. I’m one of those people.)
If you’ve listened to Lin Manuel Miranda, you’ll know that he has a pretty specific twang to his voice. I knew that obviously wasn’t going to be there, but I was worried what the role would be without it. However, I really enjoyed Hunter’s take on the role. His performance in the first half was solid and his voice was great, but he really won me over in the second act. At times, his Hamilton was far more serious and calculated than Lin’s; it’s like he was more than just a talented, cocky guy… he was someone who knew how to play the game. This added an edge to his character, and made his fued with Burr far more believable on his side.
Lafayette is my favourite character in Hamilton, and Daveed Diggs (the OG Lafayette) has a special place in my heart. Therefore, this was the one I was particularly unsure about, because I find it hard to separate Diggs and the character. However, on browsing the program when I got to the theatre, I found out that Jason Pennycooke was playing Lafayette! I saw him as Bobby Dupree in Memphis for my 18th birthday and he was hands down my favourite performer in that, so that gave me some extra excitement on my way in.
He definitely lived up to my expectations! His Lafayette was entertaining and he kept up with the rap (not as well as Diggs, but then again I haven’t seen him do it live), but he exceeded my expectations with Jefferson. I’m pretty indifferent about Jefferson as a character, but Pennycooke made me love him. He had such charisma and brought a new level of whimsy to the role that I wouldn’t say was there before. He danced, he joked and he brought the audience many laughs. I could not wait for Jefferson to come back whenever he left the stage, and that was all because of Pennycooke.
I could keep going on about this cast but this post would be longer than it already plans to be. However, some additional special mentions go to:
Though I’ve listened to the soundtrack non-stop (hehe) for over 6 months, this is the first time I saw the staging, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The set itself was fairy minimilistic – decked out in moveable wooden scaffolding. The various changes of scenery were created through props and larger items, moved on and off of the stage by the ensemble cast – who were absolutely brilliant – right in front of our eyes.
The choreography was beautifully abstract and worked brilliantly in setting the scene and telling the story. This was aided massively by the rotating parts of the stage, which really helped create a modern and somewhat controlled-yet-hectic atmosphere. It was all genius, it all told a story, and I could see myself analysing it in a GCSE drama class.
It’s safe to say that I’ve been more than a little obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack for a while. In fact, it made up the entire top 10 of my most listened songs of 2018 on Spotify. I am such a musical nerd, especially when it comes to the structure and composition of a soundtrack, and Lin Manuel Miranda is a musical genius. I could write a whole dissertation on the composition of Hamilton, and honestly, if I could find a way to work that into Philosophy or English I probably would.
If you’re listening to it for the first time, I would recommend listening to the whole thing from start to finish, because so many songs flow directly into others, and it’s musically beautiful. However, if you don’t have 2.5 hours to spare, have a listen to:
Because they’ll give you a real flair for the production (And also happen to be some of my favourites).
One of the things that really attracted me to Hamilton was the multi-ethnicity of the cast. As a black girl, I watched a lot of theatre productions where there was no one like me – especially as musical theatre is so franchised and so they work on replicating the same aesthetic. Obviously, there are musicals like Hairspray and Memphis that heavily feature a black cast, but both also heavily revolve the topic of race (Although, race is very important, and they both make my list of top 10 musicals). However, what I like about Hamilton is that it’s so highly ethnically diverse for no reason whatsoever (Which, in my opinion, is the best reason).
We’re all aware that in this time period, all of these people would have been white… It was America in the 1700’s and we’ve seen pictures of the founding fathers. the producers of Hamilton know that we know this, and they know that we’re smart enough to know that they aren’t playing the characters 100% true to life. So, they cast whoever fits the role best, regardless of ethnicity. And what does that leave you with? An absolutely amazing and diverse cast, who really kick butt.
Go see it. Check the website for availability, and go see it.
Bring tissues. It gets real sad in the second act and it’s very likely you’ll cry, or at least feel a whole tonne of goosebumps like I did.
Thank you for reading through my chunky Hamilton review! Honestly, this was the shortest I could make it, because this show was everything to me. Thank you once again to Encore Tickets for sponsoring this post, don’t forget to check out their website for cheap ticket deals!
Have you seen Hamilton? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments!
Lots of love,
Hey, I'm Jasmine Burke. A girl in her twenties fresh out of Uni that's trying to write in any way that she can. I go under the branch of "lifestyle" but honestly, you can find pretty much anything on here.