Happy Thanksgiving weekend/Black Friday/Saint Andrew’s Day to you all…. and happy day off to me 😉
I promised you a review of Hamilton and it’s been such a crazy week, I simply haven’t had time until now…so here is my promised review:
We saw Hamilton last Saturday in the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. (It was my daughter’s Christmas present.) Firstly, the venue was gorgeous; Victorian opulence at it’s finest. Conveniently located for Victoria Train Station.
I love the theatre, you can never go to too many shows, particularly musicals and have seen dozens in my lifetime…I have honestly never seen anything like this, it was astounding!
First things first; the set. The set was red brick and wooden staircases, balconies etc. Somehow it worked for interior and exterior scenes (think ‘be back soon’ from Oliver). You cannot see and don’t realize until it happens, but the centre of the stage is made up of multiple moving circles…the programme explains how they basically ripped out the old stage to put the mechanism in… the seam was impossible to see when stationary and the use was unbelievably effective (but we’ll get to that in a bit).
The props and large pieces of movable set (I’m talking whole staircases) were moved by the cast either during the music and dance or brought on whilst in character, there were no blackouts between scenes and no visible runners.
Speaking of the cast (I refuse to say ‘extras’ because every one of them were both essential and brilliant), they had an amazing group of performers. At one point there were 8 of them on stage singing a harmony that sounded like a choir of 20 or more. Their roles were also fascinating; as I said, they were moving props as part of their performance, but they also all played multiple roles. They appeared in period costume underwear (corset, bloomers and stockings) and then added dress coats, soldier uniforms or gowns to suit the scene.
Then the principal cast….just wow! Obviously, they are all very talented professionals, but I was genuinely blown away. The woman playing Eliza Hamilton was spectacular…in fact, that’s not a strong enough word! If I tell you she’s played Diana Ross before…well, yeah…Wow. I also think the man playing Washington was amazing; he had an exquisite voice and amazing presence, which I guess is kind of a key feature for playing the first president!
Angelica, and others, deserve special mention for working with that moving stage! I’d totally fall on my face.. but they sing, move with and against it, speak/sing/move to match the pace (like the person speaking is upstage when arguing). The lady being Angelica stood in the middle of a moving platform and sang a real power ballad whilst shuffling to stay facing the exact same spot the whole time.
The whole cast were amazing, there wasn’t one I’d consider a lesser ability, they far surpassed everything else I’ve seen (and I was a Drama student…I’ve seen loads). Of course, they had the brilliance of Lin-Manuel’s writing to work with.
The man is a genius and has written himself into history with this, it was unique on so many levels:
- The sound and movement were constant, in almost a contemporary dance manner. The only silences were when characters died and that made them sooooo powerful you could hear a pin drop or, more accurately, members of the audience gasping/crying.
- Unlike a lot of entertainment, it was informative. I knew very little American history but when my daughter brought this to my attention, I looked it up. Even then, I didn’t know everything that Eliza did with her life! Wow again!
- There is no dialogue..there is song, rap or some form of music at all times (excepting the intentional silence at key moments of tension). Yet the whole plot, humour, emotions and historical facts are all portrayed with perfect clarity; it’s straightforward to follow.
- The complexity of the songs shame even Lloyd-Webber. The overlap is genius; there are several songs with reprises for different situations to portray different meanings.
- The finale song was an amalgamation of all the others (like ‘who will buy’ from Oliver but better)… the whole thing was stunning and this was the icing on a fab cake!
We had to pick up merch for such a fab show; I’m not one for drinking shots but appreciate the pun of a shot glass with this song on…
I can’t recommend it enough…please go see it if you get the chance!