Stars and Stripes
Take one theatre producer known for Cats, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and a cast of West End stars, and what do you have? A recipe for success, that’s what.
Even before the Broadway hit Hamilton premieres at the Victoria Palace Theatre (from 6 Dec), it’s already the talk of the town. The show will reopen the listed theatre following an extensive and delayed renovation and expansion.
Produced in London by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Thomas Kail, the musical is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of one of the USA’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, a poor, orphaned immigrant born in the Caribbean.
Set in the late 1700s, it follows Hamilton’s role in the American War of Independence, and looks at how he catapulted to fame in 1789 when he became the first secretary of the treasury – and George Washington’s right-hand man. Hamilton went on to establish a national bank, and shape the foundations of the country.
The themes in the show are so relevant that the production even incurred the wrath of President Trump when its racially diverse cast made a public statement to Vice President Mike Pence, on stage, expressing their concerns at the Trump administration.
Pence was booed by the audience, and the President took to Twitter to demand an apology for the ‘harassment’ caused by the cast. It certainly made the show more newsworthy.
British audiences may not identify with the storyline, but when it is told alongside energetic ballet and hip-hop moves and put to a score that blends hip hop, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway tunes, you can see its appeal.
No wonder the Broadway version scooped the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.
If you can’t make it to Broadway – or Chicago or San Francisco – and you’re lucky enough to bag tickets in London, you can see Jamael Westman and Ash Hunter take turns playing the lead in the West End version.
A cast of predominantly British black, Asian and Middle Eastern stars will perform alongside Westman and Hunter, including Rachelle Ann Go (Miss Saigon, Les Misérables) as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and Obioma Ugoala (Motown the Musical) as George Washington.
The set and costumes may look like something out of a period drama and, yes, the plot might feel like a lesson in American history, but the contemporary tunes, street talk and hip-hop dance routines bring the show right up to date – and make you want to go back to school.
By Sarah Riches