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Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton has been sweeping the theatre world and has become one of the biggest musical shows of all time, and I managed to get to see it last weekend in New York, where it sells out every night and ticket sales are said to average $600,000 a week. Perhaps the almost 100-year old Richard Rogers Theater could spash out a few bucks on an additional toilet, as the three story Broadway building only has one in the basement.

Never mind, that’s the nit-picking out of the way. I walked into the theatre, well queued for a fair bit, with no pre-determined judgements, in fact no real pre-determined ideas of what the hell Hamilton was about either.

One thing for sure was that I sure as hell didn’t realize that the whole show is done in song, which made it initially hard to follow, especially as the majority of the songs are in the form of hip-hop, rap and RnB. However, I started to work out the theme of the story being told, although my one regret was not giving myself a quick Wikipedia brush up on my American history beforehand.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent is the brains behind the show. The thirty-something talent wrote the music, the lyrics, book and starred in it when it first opened ‘off Broadway’ three years ago, and the show can now be seen all over the U.S. and since the end of last year in London.

So, what’s it about? Alexander Hamilton is the oft-forgotten American founding father. The show tells the story of Hamilton’s ascent out of poverty and into power against the backdrop of the American Revolutionary War and their Independence from the British Empire. It wasn’t necessary but it would help, unless you’re an American historian, to brush up on your American history before you go, unless you have been already, and then you’ll be like me, and have a quick swot afterwards whilst humming one of the 34 very catchy tunes.

Hamilton grew up in poverty on the Caribbean island of Nevis. He was orphaned and taken in by a prosperous merchant. When he reached his teens, he was sent to New York to pursue his education. He joined the military, but was clearly a bright lad and became a senior aide to General George Washington. Hamilton wasn’t flawless as we find out, but the lesser known of the seven founding fathers wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers, which helped to ratify the U.S. Constitution. He also founded the country’s banking system, coastguard and the New York Post. Less known he maybe but Hamilton’s face has appeared on the $10 bill since 1928. Yeh, I had to look that up.

The cast is all one of colour playing off course middle aged white men of power, and there were some brilliant performances with on the day we were there Michael Luwoye playing the role of lead, Lexi Lawson as Eliza Hamilton, Daniel Breaker as arch rival Aaron Burr, Bryan Terrell Clark as Washington and the superbly entertaining James Monroe Iglehart, who played French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette in the first half and Thomas Jefferson in the second.

The only white actor was the clown-like King George III (played by Evan Morton) who was camped up and hilarious in his role as the head of state that lost the War of Independence. His character played on the historical anecdote that King George never truly acknowledged the independence of the American people.

I read that Brits maybe upset at how George, who suffered from a variety of mental health issues, was portrayed, but you would have to not be British to not dig the humour.

I loved Hamilton. The music was brilliant, and for three hours I was charmed by the characters and mesmerized by the music. I left with a thirst to understand better the history, but also happy that I witnessed firsthand this contemporary stage version of events.


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