My London West End Review of ‘Hamilton’

When I came back to France from the United States after Christmas in January 2017, I knew I needed something to look forward to in order to fight off the winter blues. Thankfully, I had been keeping up with American culture and knew what a phenomenon Hamilton had become in the United States (it’s virtually unknown here in France and the UK had only recently jumped on the bandwagon with the show’s upcoming arrival.) Therefore, when it had been confirmed that the show was making its West End transfer in 2017 (and I knew I’d be in Lille for at least a few more years to come), I was committed to waiting in the online queue and purchase tickets to see the show myself. (Again, the plus side of living in Lille is being only 1.5 hours away from London by train.)

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I was at work and on a break when the tickets were scheduled to be released, so I plopped myself down in front of a computer in the staff room, determined to cancel out all of the other noise and distractions around me. Additionally, because of how crazy Hamilton ticket sales have been reputed to be on Broadway, I was somewhat expecting for West End tickets to sell out in 2.2 seconds and surge in price on resale browsers. (But actually, in order to avoid scalpers and influx ticket prices in the UK, you are not given your Hamilton tickets until you walk into the theatre. You must arrive on site with your printed receipt, your ID, and your credit card used for purchase. You must also have your entire party with you, and the person whose credit card was used for purchase must be in attendance. I was really stressed out by this process beforehand but it was actually smooth sailing, and it keeps tickets affordable for everyone.)

Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised to have only spent about an hour searching before successfully securing two floor (stall) seats for a matinée show on a Thursday during my school holidays in May 2018 (only 17 months from date of purchase!) I couldn’t believe that I had actually managed to snag tickets for the impossible, and I was even more curious to see how the story of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers, and the creation of the United States of America would fare under the interpretive magic of our British counterparts.


London Hamilton Cast Performing at the Oliver Awards

As for the show itself, well, it was incredible. First of all, the venue, Victoria Palace Theatre, had been closed and entirely redone for Hamilton, and it looked spectacular on the inside. When it came to the actual production I was actually slightly nervous because of all the hype that had built up, but really, it was such an enriching theatrical experience. What I especially loved was the atmosphere– everyone who was there, wanted to and was excited to be there, which made the ambiance that much more special. I laughed (“The Schuyler Sisters”, “Helpless”, “Say No to This”), and I cried (“Satisfied”, “Stay Alive (the reprise)”, and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,”) and I felt particularly emotional and patriotic during ” Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” and “Nonstop”. Finally, I felt like Hamilton was speaking directly to me every time he shouted, “I am not throwing away my shot!” 

I was actually glad I had purchased and listened to the album beforehand, because the entire show is rap/hip-hop style music, and it can go pretty fast and can be hard to follow with no background knowledge. It was entertaining on a personal level to put the pieces together because I knew almost all the songs but some of them were a bit out of context, and I didn’t realize who was singing (and in what context) until I actually saw the show live.

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The London cast also put their own unique twists and interpretations into the lyrics and their characters. I thought Giles Terera played an absolutely fantastic Aaron Burr– his performance of “Room Where it Happens” still plays in my head throughout the day. Jason Pennycooke plays both LaFayette and Thomas Jefferson, and I preferred his performance as Jefferson (he was fantastic!) Also, fun fact, Thomas Jefferson was actually a pretty terrible person (slaveowner, rapist, etc.) Finally, I thought King George III’s Michael Jibson was so unapologetically British camp (I can’t find another word to describe him in either American or British English.) He was hilarious and his ballads had the whole audience participating. My opinion of King George III comes solely from my eighth grade history teacher’s class interpretation, and it was fun to finally put a name to a face. Other honorable mentions go to Cleve September as Phillip Hamilton, and Obioma Ugoala as George Washington.

The performance I saw actually featured some alternative cast members, including Ash Hunter as Alexander Hamilton, Marsha Songcome as Eliza Hamilton, and Miriam Teak Lee as Angelica Schuyler. I thought they were all great. My friend who came with me said that Ash didn’t rap quite as well, but he did put more emotion into his character. I thought the two ladies cast their parts well, but I preferred the voices of the originals.

Needless to say, Hamilton is worth the hype. If you have the opportunity to see a production of the show, go. There are currently productions in London, New York, and Chicago, with an additional touring company making its way around US Cities.

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Post Hamilton drinks on the Southbank

Have you seen Hamilton? Leave me a comment below and let’s discuss.

Bisous,
Dana

7 thoughts on “My London West End Review of ‘Hamilton’

  1. I was super lucky enough to get affordable tickets to see the (almost entire) original cast in New York – it was riiiiiight before it went viral. We had a BLAST! I don’t always like listening to soundtracks beforehand because i love the element of surprise, but the staging was a surprise enough in itself. Thanks goodness we were sitting in the back row because I could not stop myself from throwing up my arms and dancing during Non Stop and so many of the songs !! I think my own personal obsession with Hamilton has passed, but I am excited about the conversations and movements it has started within the theatre community and without !!

    1. Ahhh that’s amazing! I always forget how involved in the theatre community you are! Did you see Lin Manuel Miranda? I agree that I usually do not listen to things in advance, but I caved with Hamilton and I am glad that I did. I’m not sure I’m obsessed but I’ve been listening to the music a lot, and I need to buy the book to read! xx

      1. We did ! The only one we didn’t see was Chris Jackson who was sick, which I was slightly heartbroken by, and a few ensemble members who had already moved on. I miss good ol’ American theatre 🙂 I keep meaning to get more involved in theatre-y things in France, but it’s hard to know where to start! Hopefully next year!! xxx

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