Hamilton West End - First Viewing

Hamilton: An American Musical (But In England)

It's just a bit underwhelming.


But I didn't really love the West End Production as much as I thought I would.

Here is a brief list of my personal involvement with Hamilton:

1. I have listened to the cast recording over 200 times according to Google Play Music's stats
2. I have watched every available clip on YouTube, official or illegal
3. I used to run a dedicated Hamilton memes page
4. I have been involved in the production of two videos with Spirit YPC based around Hamilton
5. I played Alexander Hamilton in a full length sing through
6. I can play the whole musical through on piano
Credit: The Stage

This morning, my sister and I showed up at the theatre nearly 2 hours before the performance started and splashed nearly £100 on merch on top of our £80ish seats.

The seats were our first issue - after Cameron Mackintosh's new renovation there weren't meant to be any restricted view seats, and yet, after buying £80 stalls seats I found myself ducking and moving at points to see all the action - I really wanted to stand up at points, but of course I did not. For reference, the seats were Stalls R5 and R6 - the rightmost side of the back of the stalls. Quite disappointing for that price - especially since I couldn't get a really good photo of the stage for my Snapchat story.

Speaking of my Snapchat story, those who saw it would have seen my sister and I going absolutely crazy walking into the theatre - which was a really quick and easy process, by the way - and by the end of the show we just looked at each other with dry eyes and said "well, okay". With that said, we will be returning in January with better seats at which point I will write another review.

I am first of all going to say what I loved about the show:

Three performers were outstanding to me: Jason Pennycooke, as well as Obioma Ugoala and Cleve September as close seconds.

Pennycooke was in a league of his own, outstanding over all other performers in the production. He played both parts (Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson) like they were written for him and brought completely new perspective to the part - which is exactly what I wanted to see from everyone who performed. Unfortunately, only Pennycooke consistently delivered on this front.

Ugoala played Washington with expert movement, vocals and expression, and September did the same as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton. They didn't necessarily add anything to the part over the Broadway Cast, but I think they were both individually better than their Original Broadway counterparts.

Pennycooke stood out because overall the production felt like a copy and paste of the Broadway production. Now, this is no bad thing, it is the most successful Broadway production of it's time (and it had the same director, set, etc), but what I really wanted to see was something new brought to the characters; something I couldn't hear on the Broadway Cast Recording. I just didn't get that from the majority of the cast. This is where my main problem lies: it felt like the Broadway production, just... worse. That is not to say that this is a bad production. It is really one of the best thing you can see in London at the moment, it was just rather underwhelming.

My next problem with it is going to stir some controversy in places - for the record, I am a very accepting and loving person, and this opinion remains despite that. Giles Terera, who played Burr, was an amazing mover, actor and singer. Unforunately, he had some form of speech impediment. It was a minor one, but I found it so distracting that I could not get immersed in the performance. He really was outstanding in all other areas though - he just missed the spot for me by a hair's breadth. 

In terms of "well you can't not cast someone just because they have a speech impediment," I disagree. I have often fallen short of being cast due to my lack of dance competency, and bad coordination is something that runs in my family. Theatre is a harsh world - if not being able to dance properly means that you cannot get cast in a dance heavy show, then not being able to talk properly means that you cannot get cast in a rap musical. I do not think that Terera should not have been in the show - he would've done well in a minor role, or even an ensemble position, because he was amazing in all other senses, I just found the impediment so distracting.

I did not get to see Tarinn Callender as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. Instead I saw his understudy, Aaron Lee Lambert in his first ever performance in the role. He was really really good, and I would group him along with September and Ugoala, but I could tell he was just getting into the role. He was definitely a close fourth behind those three leading men. 

Michael Jibson was just really funny as King George - he didn't have an outstanding voice like his Broadway counterpart, he had an amazing voice, but above all, he just gave a really convincing performance which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The last leading man to mention is Jamael Westman, who played Alexander Hamilton. I don't have a huge amount to say on his performance other than: outstanding singing, outstanding movement, but where oh where was his emotion? It was clearly there in scenes like the interactions with Angelica, and his little dance when he gets the blessing to marry Eliza was a highlight, but in the longer sections, especially the cabinet battles, I found his performance very rigid. He was so so different from Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton, as Miranda is very much an actor over mover/singer. 

Speaking of Angelica and Eliza, the girls fell into the "not quite as good as Broadway" category. With that said, Rachelle Ann Go, Rachel John and Christine Allado gave really strong performances as Eliza Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler and Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds individually - they were practically flawless performances and I have absolutely no criticism other than they just weren't quite as good as their Broadway counterparts, and they didn't particularly add anything new like Pennycooke did.

The ensemble was like it had been cloned from Broadway - very strong singers, dancers and actors. There wasn't much to change, so no criticism there, and the same is true of the set, the lighting, the direction. My one disappointment on this front was that I would have liked to have seen a bit more variation in choreography and direction given that this is not a transfer and is an entirely new production. There was nothing wrong with it, I just don't feel like I gained anything new from watching this production over the Broadway production, and I feel like I should have done, and I wanted to.

Overall, this show is awesome but just misses the mark personally for me. I feel underwhelmed, but I'm excited to see it again with as many different cast members as possible. For now, I'm going to give it 8/10, knocking off one mark for not the best casting in places, and one for not really adding anything as a production to what it was on Broadway.



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