Phonebox's Cara Lee recently visited one of her absolute favourite musicals for the first time - having fallen in love with the soundtrack a few years ago due to its amazing success over the pond...here's her review:
You don’t need to be a theatre aficionado to know that Hamilton (which tells the life story of the eponymous American founding father who wrote his way out of poverty, into the American Revolution and eventually into ruin, all using the modern language of hip hop with a multi-racial cast) is a pretty big deal. It’s got 11 Tonys, Pulitizer Prize and Grammy – but is it really worth the hype? Well, I’m happy to say that I can answer that question with a resounding yes (I already could have to be honest, but that’s besides the point).
First of all, as most of you will know, the music is fantastic- insanely catchy tunes combined with swift and clever lyrics make for some of the best written musical theatre in years. This fast pace is also matched by incredibly energetic choreography which constantly fills the revolving stage. These words are brought to brilliant life by a fantastic cast, especially the surprisingly fresh out of drama school Jamael Westman who encapsulates in his performance both Hamilton’s more than slightly arrogant swagger in addition to his emotional side, without missing a beat of the show’s often dense libretto. Giles Terrera’s Aaron Burr (Hamilton’s mentor and friend turned rival) comes across as more of an outsider than Broadway original Leslie Odom Jnr’s cool and emotionless portrayal, especially considering his unique voice, but this suits the character brilliantly.
These two distinct portrayals also bring out an even starker contrast between Hamilton and Burr, which is of course the driving force of the entire show. And Michael Jibson practically steals the show as the often hilarious King George III, who pops in at a few intervals to comment on events across the pond. Jason Pennycooke also has a spring in his step which suits the roles of both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson perfectly. Rachel John brings Angelica Schuyler’s strength to life wonderfully, whilst Rachel Ann Go has the exact combination of sweetness and the power that makes Hamilton’s wife Eliza such a great character. And those are just the standouts in what is an all-around stellar cast.
A surprisingly great aspect of the live production of Hamilton is the impressive lighting, which swiftly shifts from song to song in a very effective manner. The staging and costumes are simplistic, but this truly allows the music and performances to shine- additionally, the majority of the costumes take enough historical aspects to fit with the story, whilst reflecting on the modern atmosphere of its telling.
All in all, this is a fantastic production of a wonderful show, which is quite rightfully one of the biggest shows in the West End right now.