Hamilton | Review

The phrase ‘written for the stage’ can be said of many productions over the years. However, this has perhaps never been truer than in the case of Hamilton. I confess that the album never captured my attention much on its own. I thought the concept was interesting, the rhythm enticing, and the lyrics incredibly well written. Despite this, I felt something was missing and was therefore never as spellbound by the musical as many around me. When Hamilton came to London’s West End however, I felt I had to see it to better understand the hype.

Though the theatre is under construction it is still clear to anyone walking by that Hamilton is performed here. Its name is proudly displayed on the walls in large bright letters, warding away confusion and inviting theatre lovers far and wide. As people enter the lavish foyer tickets are quickly printed and audience members are guided to their seats where they can marvel at the stage.

The lights go down and the crowd erupts into thunderous applause and cacophonous cheering. The music starts and slowly the cheering dies out as people focus is drawn to the singing on stage. Waves of excitement and cheer run through the audience with each new character’s entrance. The excitement could be due to this only being the second night of the performance, however it seems more likely that many in the audience are big fans of the show, evident by how they are mouthing along to each line of the performance.

The cast is made up of a myriad of ethnicities: a welcome respite from the history the show brings to life. Each cast member perfects their role and the audience is enraptured. Lyrics are brought to life through incredible acting and given additional meaning. Words once thought of as throwaways are now crucial to the performance. Lines once thought to be unrelated are now reflections, parallels, or contrasts. The slightest message and image is thought of and claims of the show being genius can now be confirmed by this audience.

The show is enrapturing from start to finish but even so a few numbers shine, even in comparison to the rest of the production. ‘You’ll Be Back’, which introduces us to king George, makes the audience laugh vehemently and each subsequent appearance by the king elicits matching laughter. ‘Satisfied’ is performed so powerfully that the audience sits bewildered and as it ends applause begins, so loud that it is nearly unmatched for the remainder of the show. It is visually stunning as scenes are re-enacted, rewound, and altered, and audibly bewitching as stock melodies are matched and used to transcend the song and tell us a deeper story of anguish, regret, and remorse.  ‘Guns and Ships’, as well as ‘The Room Where It Happens’ are both showstoppers, each is acted so expertly and despite the difference in energy between the songs, the audience is no less enthralled by either. ‘Hurricane’ is probably the most impressive song visually. Set pieces are carried around the revolving stage to create the illusion of a real hurricane as Alexanders life falls apart around him.

The show ends to a standing ovation. After the long applause, the spectacle is over and individual conversations of praise and enchantment emerge throughout the audience. People can’t wait to discuss the show and their favourite moments. The audience rushes to the stands to buy show memorabilia and then to the stage door to meet the cast and congratulate them on an incredible performance. The night soon ends and people are ready to spread word of what proved to be an unforgettable night.

The Lion King | Review

Two wineglasses clink, white wine threatening to spill over. People are taking their seats in the lavish theatre. Spirits are high throughout the crowd. Word of the production has spread and spectators are sure that their expectations will be met and perhaps even exceeded.

Carefree conversation turns to hushed whispers as the lights begin to dim and the excitement grows. The curtain rises and a spectacle of colour begins. The audience leans forwards in their seats to get a better view as their senses work tirelessly, unwilling to miss a single thing. Notes are hit with a seeming effortlessness and the actors don’t seem to tire as they leap across the stage with perfect timing and grace. The opening number is familiar to most people in the theatre but no amount of familiarity with the show or its songs can compare with the scene in front of them now.

The energy in the theatre remains high for the rest of the show, a feat that seemed impossible considering the standard set by the opening number. Joy, sadness, shock and a myriad of other emotions flicker across the faces of audience members in the theatre and each scene elicits a new emotion in the audience.

The actors perform stunning dance sequences, breath-taking vocal displays, and heart-stirring acting. No matter their age, audience members fall in love with the show and its actors. The children inspire sounds of fondness and admiration and their charm makes up for the occasional mistake.

The highlight of the show is not the story, the acting, or even the music. It is the stage. The rising, tilting, and shifting of the stage aides the performance in an unmistakable way. Without the stage rising to create pride rock, tilting to show distance and landscapes, or shifting to allow for new set pieces such as the wildebeest stampede to come out the show would not be as enrapturing. Each set piece is so clearly thought through and meticulously placed to create maximum effect and the effort put into the show shines through the performance and resonates with the audience.

This same effort is evident in costume, choreography, and music. It is evident in each bead sewn onto a lioness costume, each movement or jump made by a character, and each note played by the talented musicians or sung by the actors. Nothing happens in this production by accident and the time and effort put into the piece is clear from start to finish.

Wonder shines on the faces of spectators throughout the theatre at the perfectly crafted production and the praise and applause it receives is well deserved. Smiles remain on the spectators’ faces well after the curtain is lowered for the final time. Murmurs of reverence and affection spread through the theatre as people leave, many with the intention of returning.

Young Frankenstein | Review

The audience laughs uproariously, gasping for air as their limbs fly and they rock back and forth, shaking due to laboured breaths. Their actions are larger than life and the spectators revel in their freedom. Secure in their belief that no one can see them beneath the blanket of darkness. Hopeful, that others are as engaged as they are, and that their eyes are drawn more to the spectacle on stage than the spectacle beside them.

People usually don’t display their reactions as openly. Rarely will people allow others to see their true emotions, unfiltered and unplanned. Perhaps this is the true beauty of Theatre. In seeing actors be completely unbound in their actions, the audience can cast away their masks for a few hours and reveal flawed and imperfect people.

The evening began with a notification on a phone: ‘It’s your lucky day! Congratulations, you have won 2 lottery tickets to see today’s performance of Young Frankenstein.’ Though not a planned evening, it is one that promises a good time.

Sexual innuendos fly from the stage at a pace almost too fast to follow. Perhaps a tactic to keep the audience from questioning some of the darker jokes? Physical comedy ties each line together and jokes and comments are accentuated with a calculated caress of a prop or by striking a suggestive pose. Perhaps what keeps the audience so enraptured is the thrill of following the actors along this precipice of drowning virtue: balancing at the edge, one line away from falling over with a joke that can’t be taken back or ignored. Would the audience care though, or would it be passed off under the protection that art can bring?

‘Please Don’t Touch Me’ becomes a personal favourite and is received well as the audience cackle throughout the song. The glamour, grandiose movements, and gutsy humour delivered by the talented cast stun and amaze the viewers. The rest of the shows songs are met with the same rambunctious applause.

Suddenly the scene shifts to a Transylvanian backdrop with an over sexualized  germanic village girl guiding Doctor Frankenstein to his castle along with Igor: A hunchback providing timely comedic relief. The tone for the humour has been set and those who have not welcomed this silly, sexual, and sometimes shocking humour will not have much to look forward to until the show ends. For those who relate to the humour and can laugh, if only out of disbelief that these jokes were made, a night of fun has only just begun as the monster is brought to life: A giant green monster who turns out a little differently to what the Doctor predicted.

The interval is cleverly placed for the audience to make guesses and predict what will happen to the monster and when the show continues people remain in high spirits. Seats are filled again and no one seems to have left during the interval, though more than a few people return with full wine-glasses. The show continues and everyone follows along with rapt attention. Laughs seem almost synchronised as the cast once more masterfully ensures that the audience reacts to each line and guarantee that Mel Brooks’s humour is understood and welcomed.

The show ends too soon for the liking of many in the theatre. The applause that meets the actors as the curtain rises is louder than any that night. The room seems divided at this point though as many people remain seated while applauding. Most however, stand to show the actors how much they enjoyed the performance.