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.