Hamilton: An American Musical – review

Hamilton: An American Musical – review

“Immigrants, we get the job done”

Friday 08/12/2017 I had one my Theater Nights. This time it wasn’t just a normal night because…

I actually had the chance to see Hamilton!

First of all, if you don’t know what or who Hamilton is, I’m quoting my friend Ottavia: Where the hell have you been all this time?

Hamilton is not a simple musical but a worldwide phenomenon. It had its Broadway debut in the summer of 2015, gained a lot of hype and went completely sold out (and still is sold out, unless you have 4000$ to spend, or you are lucky enough to win the lottery).

In 2016 Hamilton received 16 Tony nominations and it won 11 of those, including best musical. It also won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I mean, nothing special, right?

Hamilton opened here in London on the 6th of December and I was so lucky to score tickets during the pre-sale  back in January. I think you can imagine my emotion. And let me tell you, waiting one year to see it? Totally worth it!

Take a sit, make yourself comfortable and let me take you into the magical world of Hamilton!

Plot

Written by Lin Manuel Miranda (a legend, I wish I could have access to his brain for 10 minutes), Hamilton is a rapped musical that talks about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the American revolution and the creation of the United States. Yes, I know. Reading these lines the first thing you think is meh, why do I have to pay to attend a history lesson? Wrong! Stay still, don’t move! (spoiler alert, detailed plot to follow. If you don’t want to know the story in details, skip directly to my review). You can also read more about it on  Wikipedia.

Act I

Alexander Hamilton is an orphan who travels to America at 19. Once there he immediately becomes an active supporter of the American independence. He meets first Aaron Burr (sir!) and then another 3 revolutionaries who will later on fight with him in the revolution: John Laurens, the marquis of Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan.

The revolution is starting and King George let the Americans know that he is not pleased.

General Washington understands that he needs help to win the war. He reaches out to Hamilton who sizes the opportunity (“I’m not throwing away my shot“) and becomes his Right Hand Man.

In 1780, Hamilton attends a ball organized by Philip Schuyler, and meets the Schuyler sisters. Angelica, the oldest, has an immediate connection with Hamilton, however she gives up on him and introduces the man to her younger sister, Eliza. Eliza and Hamilton fall in love and they soon get married.

During the celebrations, Burr admits to Hamilton that he has an affair with a woman married to a British officer. It’s in this moment that we clearly see how Hamilton and Burr live their lives in completely opposite ways. Hamilton urges Burr to make the relationship public (again, Hamilton’s famous quote is “I’m not throwing away my shot“). However Burr prefers to wait and see what life has in store for him rather than take any drastic measures (“I am willing to wait for it“).

Meanwhile, the revolution continues. Eliza is pregnant and Hamilton repeatedly petitions Washington to give him command, but Washington refuses until one day, after a fight, Washington sends Hamilton home, back to Eliza and his unborn son. Eliza tries to convince Hamilton that he doesn’t need fame or fortune to live a happy life by her side but it’s clear Hamilton is missing something.

The war reaches the breaking point, Lafayette and Washington realize they can actually win but they need Hamilton to do so. Washington offers Hamilton the long-desired command and America wins the revolution.

Soon after the victory, Hamilton’s son Philip is born, while Burr has a daughter, Theodosia. Hamilton and Burr both return to New York to finish their studies and become lawyers. Burr is jealous and becomes increasingly irritated by Hamilton’s success.

Hamilton is chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and he asks Burr for help to write the new American constitution. Burr refuses because he doesn’t want to take a position. Washington becomes president and Hamilton becomes Treasury Secretary.

Act II

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson returns to the States after having spent most of the revolution in France. Upon Jefferson’s arrival in New York, Madison asks for Jefferson’s help to stop Hamilton’s new financial plans. Hamilton has clearly brilliant ideas, but he is lacking the congress support. Washington advises Hamilton to find a compromise with the Congress, if he doesn’t want to lose his job.

Hamilton is completely focused on his work and he refuses to go on holiday with his family. While he is home alone, he is visited by Maria Reynold, who claims she has been deserted by her husband. Hamilton offers to help her and the 2 begin an affair.  One day Maria’s husband James Reynolds blackmails Hamilton, who is furious with Maria but pays Reynolds and continues the affair.

Hamilton is still trying to get Jefferson and Madison’s support to his financial plan and they finally reach a compromise: they do approve the financial plan, in exchange of moving the United States capital from New York to Washington DC.

Burr is more and more jealous of Hamilton and he suddenly switches political parties and defeats Eliza’s father, to steal his seat at the Senate. This drives a wedge between Burr and Hamilton—the latter believes that Burr holds no loyalties and will stop at nothing to gain influence.

In another Cabinet meeting, Jefferson and Hamilton argue over whether the United States should assist France in its conflict with Britain. Washington agrees with Hamilton’s argument and the United States stay neutral. After the meeting, Burr, Jefferson, and Madison share their envy of Washington’s support of Hamilton’s policies. They begin to seek a way to damage Hamilton’s public image.

Jefferson resigns from his position in order to run for president, and Washington himself is stepping down.

Hamilton doesn’t have the new president’s support and after an open fight with Adams, he gets fired, too. Jefferson, Madison and Burr believe they have finally found proof that Hamilton embezzled government money and committed treason. They confront him, and Hamilton is forced to admit to his affair with Maria Reynolds. Soon after, Hamilton decides to come clean and to publish the truth about his relationship with Maria for everyone to see. He didn’t commit treason, however is personal life is completely destroyed.

Years pass, and Philip, now grown, challenges a man to a duel for insulting his father. Following Hamilton’s advice, Philip aims for the sky at the beginning of the duel and tries to end the dispute, however he is shot to death. Following Philip’s death, the family moves and Eliza forgives Hamilton for his betrayal.

In 1800, Adams looses the election and Jefferson and Burr are running head to head to become the president. Hamilton ends up supporting Jefferson, who wins the election. Burr, angry, challenges Hamilton to a duel. Like his son, Hamilton aims for the sky (the first time ever that he actually throws away his shot, “If I throw away my shot, is this how you’ll remember me?”). However Burr shoots Hamilton and kills him.

Hamilton is remembered as a financial genius. Eliza spends her life trying to preserve her husband’s legacy, she also opens an orphanage in Hamilton’s honor. Like Washington says:

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Review

Where do I begin? After finally seeing the show live, I understand why it is sold out in two continents, why tickets are unofficially prized at a crazy amount of money and why people are generally freaking out over it.

Hamilton is not just a musical, it’s the cultural phenomenon of the century. Starting with the lyrics, rap music in a musical (and every single song fits perfectly with the more classic ballads), the characters, the cast… everything makes Hamilton a show that you just gotta see.

On Friday the vibe at the theater was beautiful. Not just because everyone was super excited to be there, I don’t know how to explain it, but even the security, people working there… everyone was just happy. 

Now on to the actual personal review.

  • A. Hamilton (Jamael Westman): Incredible voice, and also very good in all dancing parts. He is very tall and towers over basically anyone, especially Eliza (it’s super cute to see them interact, when Jamael has to bend in half to kiss her). It’s not Lin’s Hamilton of course, and you don’t even have to try comparing the 2 versions. Jamael is young and this is his musical debut (hell of a debut). Sometimes he was awkward on stage, and during some dramatic moments he didn’t convey the emotion I was expecting, but I’m 100% sure this is  because he just started. He simply needs the time to grow into Hamilton and make the character really his. I wish I’ll have the chance to see the show again in like 7 months, I bet his Hamilton is going to be simply great by then, especially in the emotional parts.
  • A. Burr (Giles Terera): Voice, acting, character’s interpretation… everything was amazing. The only thing is that Giles has a slip. Honestly that didn’t change my prospective, however I realize it might be somewhat difficult for other people, especially if you are used to hear Leslie’s voice opening the show. I couldn’t have asked for a better Burr (well, of course, if I can’t have Leslie).
  • Lafayette / Jefferson (Jason Pennycooke): I liked Lafayette in the first act, however by the second act the memory was completely blown away by Jefferson. I loved his Jefferson. Funny, sneaky, very different from the Broadway one, he gets on stage and completely steals the scene.
  • Mulligan / Madison (Tarinn Callender): I think I preferred Madison, but I also think I’m biased because of Jefferson. I loved them together. Amazing voice, too.
  • Laurens / Philip (Cleve September): Laurens didn’t give me much, but his Philip was very good. Beautiful voice and beautiful face, too.
  • King George (Michael Jibson): EVERYBODY HAIL TO THE KING NOW! AMAZING!!! I need the all caps to describe him. One of my favorites with Washington, I was so sad he didn’t come out for the stage door. A perfect King George, funny, very different from J. Groff. The only negative thing? He doesn’t have a lot of stage time!!!
  • Washington (Obioma Ugoala):  My other favorite of the night, he deserved the standing ovation at the end. Amazing, charismatic, he owned the stage and he was a perfect Washington. Beautiful voice.
  • Eliza Schuyler (Rachelle Ann Go): Beautiful voice. During the fist act I found her a little bit “too much”. Too naive, too loud, more a Peggy than an Eliza. In the second act she was muuuuch better, and I loved her in Burn.
  • Angelica Schuyler (Rachel John): Perfect. Voice, acting, character… everything was amazing. I think she can be even better with more shows on her shoulders.
  • Peggy Schuyler/ Maria Reynolds (Christine Allado): Amazing. At first I was kinda skeptical of her Peggy: she is super tall, too, and she towers over her sisters, much like Hamilton. However Christine still managed to give Peggy that ingenuity that she deserves. She was a perfect Maria, too.

Useful Information

1. Theater

 Victoria Palace Theatre 

2. Address

Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 5EA, UK

3. Contacts

Box office is open Monday to Saturday, from 10 – 19.45. Phone: 08444825138. Email: VPBox@delfontmackintosh.co.uk

4. Buy your ticket

I bought my tickets on Ticketmaster, the only official retailer, during the pre-sale in January 2017. At the time I couldn’t choose my seats, Ticketmaster automatically gave me the best tickets available for the specific day I chose. My friends and I ended up with 4 tickets in the stalls, row C, and 4 tickets in the Royal Circle, row E, price 79.50£ each. They were all amazing seats. I watched it from the stalls and I had a perfect view of the whole stage and the actors faces. If you prefer the overall vision and enjoy the dancing parts, I recommend the circle.

Tip: Check the official website to see when new tickets are going to be released. If you don’t have an account already, registered to Ticketmaster and be ready to buy the ticket the very second it’s on sale. If that doesn’t work, check daily for returns (you can either check online or queue at the theater), or try your luck with the daily lottery.

5. Misc

  • Hamilton is fighting a war against abusive ticket re sellers. There are strict security checks in place, and they start even before you enter the theater. I’m personally very pleased of this, I’d rather wait for 30 minutes outside the theater than seeing tickets sold for 700£ on Stubhub or Viagogo. If you are lucky enough to score a ticket, you won’t receive a paperless one and it won’t be mailed to you either. You have to show up at the theater the day of the performance, and present the card you used to purchase the ticket, an ID with picture and the confirmation email from Ticketmaster.
  • If you are in a group, all the parties must enter at the same time. They won’t allow you to even queue if people are missing. So if you have friends who are often late, I suggest you lie about the performance time and ask them to arrive 2 hours in advance, or someone is definitely losing the show.
  • I usually try to not listen to any songs before seeing a musical, because I don’t want to get spoiled. However for Hamilton I really suggest you all troll Spotify until you know the lyrics by heart. Some songs (like, Guns and Ships) are so fast that you might end up losing half of the meaning if you don’t know the words beforehand.

6. Merchandise

Of course I had to buy some merch. They have tons of things (but they don’t have Burr’s hat like in New York). I bought the original Broadway brochure (10£), the program with the West End cast (4£), the mug (12£) and Hamilton’s hat (20£). They also have t-shirts, hoodies, key-chains and a dozen other things.

Tip: Merchandise opens at 18 and if you want to buy something I really advice you arrive at the theater early. The queue is super long and quite slow, we waited at least 45 minutes to arrive at the till and actually buy our things. It’s basically impossible to buy anything during the 15 minutes break between acts. Merch stays open after the show, too, the queue is still long and slow, and you’ll miss the stage door. Up to you.

7. Stage door

There is literally no space anywhere. I’m actually not sure if they are going “to build” a proper one. For now, you have to queue on the right end side of the theater, on the sidewalk (same place where you have to queue for the return tickets). When we were there, Hamilton, Burr, King George, Eliza and Peggy didn’t come out. We saw Washington, Jefferson, Laurence, Madison and Angelica. I guess it’s because it was the very beginning, I’m assuming that everyone will actually come out in a month or so.

Tip: Bring a sharpie, they didn’t have one and pens are just awful.

So, what do you think? Are you going to see it? Let me know in a comment!