HAMILTON

★★★★★

_REVIEW.   it’s about _THEATRE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.   at _BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME.   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until 31st AUG.

July 1, 2024

images © Danny Kaan.

As the wanton chaos of the US Presidential election threw up its most unpredictable week yet, just as the UK readies for its own pivotal vote on, of all dates, July 4th, it seems a fitting time for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus, Hamilton, to open in Brum.

There are few properties within the musical theatre world that seem to have clutched the zeitgeist with as much force as this; Miranda’s fulsome account of the life, trials and tribulations of the ‘forgotten’ founding father of the United States, Alexander Hamilton. Since landing just shy of a decade ago, it has scooped up every major award in the industry and gathered a fervent, impassioned following along the way.

“There are few properties within the musical theatre world that seem to have clutched the zeitgeist with as much force as this…”

For this, the show’s premiere UK touring production, Cameron Mackintosh and friends certainly haven’t missed their ‘shot’ at delivering Hamilton fever to all new regional audiences, with a bombastic, masterful production steered by one of the most impressive companies in musical theatre.

Much like another recent review – namely, the RSC and Good Chance Theatre’s Kyoto – one could be forgiven for thinking the bare bones synopsis of Hamilton would sit at odds with its mainstream popularity. Though it moves fairly briskly through a period of several decades, as it chronicles Hamilton’s (Shaq Taylor) ascent from idealistic orphaned student to one of the most influential figures in the new, fledgling United States, it still nonetheless deals with a heavy amount of history, political intrigue and even warfare. Major constitutional revolutions and brokered deals of finance, seats of power and position could easily be impenetrable, or at the very least, laden and dull.

The conjuration of real theatrical magic comes predominately, then, from Miranda’s unassailable score – a heady, whirlwind melange of hip hop, rap, jazz and musical theatre all. Hamilton comes out of the gates fast and unapologetic, the titular opening number a dizzy, almost discombobulating infusion of exposition, character and mission statement. From there, its relentless, whippet-fast barrage of sung-spoke introductions, developments and about-turns somehow manages to inform, educate and entertain all at once.

“The conjuration of real theatrical magic comes predominately, then, from Miranda’s unassailable score…”

Of course, it helps that it is all staged with real flair, too. Thomas Kail’s blistering, kinetic direction mixed with Andy Blankenbuehler’s electric choreography dance about within the imposing spectacle of David Korins and David Harris’ impressive, layered and versatile set. It all looks and feels premium. Exciting. A revolving centre stage is put to great use throughout, amplifying the sense of rhythm and movement, and even providing delicate transitions as one character literally glides into an intimate conversation with another.

So much of Hamilton not only fuses together and creates a greater whole, but also does so in a fashion which, in the hands of less confident creatives and performers, would likely lead to something resembling tonal whiplash. Miranda and all involved keep the pulse on the human condition, with the likes of ambition, stubbornness, lust, rage and all other manner of deeply characterful impulses threading through every number and sequence. Yes, there’s an awful lot of Hamilton that essentially amounts to men talking or disagreeing about their political aspirations, but it’s all deeply underpinned with relatable passions and drives.

And it isn’t shy of having fun with itself, either; see for instance, Daniel Boys’ extended, repeat cameo as King George, depicted here as a petulant, brattish spoilsport, which is utterly hilarious and a great puncture to the heavier moments around him.

The sizeable company and ensemble impress immediately, and maintain staggering energy levels and commitment throughout Hamilton’s considerable run time of just under three hours. There’s not a weak link to be found, from principles to swing. Taylor is the MVP as the main man himself, bringing a dignified yet poetic flair to his take on the titular role. Sam Oladeinde, meanwhile, is coolly malevolent as Hamilton’s long-time rival, Aaron Burr.

“There’s not a weak link to be found, from principles to swing.”

Charles Simmons brings a real sense of venerability to his George Washington, a stern yet decent supplicant father figure for Hamilton, whilst Maya Britto puts in a stunning turn, charting the journey of Eliza Hamilton from doe-eyed ingenue to one of the show’s most rounded and heart-rending figures. From the sidelines, Aisha Jawando is an avatar of unrequited feelings and quiet, august resolve as Eliza’s sister, Angelica in a soulful supporting turn. Finally, repeatedly a standout is Billy Nevers as both the Marquis de Lafayette and, in particular, his gloriously animated and flamboyant Thomas Jefferson – a real injection of vim and sass come Act II.

Buoyed by incredible foundations that are only elevated by high production values, superb direction and choreography, Hamilton heads out on the road with every ounce of its genius and magic not only intact, but positively crackling onto the regional stages. With nothing compromised, and delivered by a truly stellar company, if there is only one political whirlwind you expose yourself to this Summer, make sure it is the majesty and unmitigated mastery that is Hamilton.

Oh, and please vote, too.

…That’s kind of the point.

 Let the superlatives fly – Hamilton is every inch the masterpiece you have been told. A stunning, tireless explosion of musical invention and storytelling writ large – go for its innate, original genius, stay for one of the hardest-working and most impressive casts in musical theatre.

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