HAMILTON: The Ultimate Guide
Hamilton finally makes its UK debut at the Victoria Palace Theatre tomorrow night. Need a quick primer on the musical phenomenon? Here's the lowdown...
What'd I Miss?
Hamilton! It's the most feverishly anticipated theatre opening since a little fringe show named Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - the latter, coincidentally, is heading to Broadway as we inherit the American juggernaut.
And American it very much is. Full title Hamilton: An American Musical, it's about forgotten Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and - with Shakespearean sweep - the building of an independent nation.
History Has Its Eyes On You
Composer and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose In the Heights had a hit run here recently) read Ron Chernow's Hamilton biography on holiday and was inspired to create Hamilton - initially as a concept album.
It first appeared publicly in an Obama-era White House poetry jam, then premiered as a full show at New York's Public Theater in 2015 and subsequently transferred to Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. It's done rather well there.
From a poverty-stricken childhood in the Caribbean to becoming the Treasury Secretary who founded America's banking system and helped shape its Constitution, Hamilton's is quite the rags-to-riches tale - and, topically, that of the immigrant Dreamer. "In New York you can be a new man."
Add to that a love triangle, conflicts on and off the battlefield, numerous duels, and the first major sex scandal.
Aaron Burr, Sir
Oh yes, there's also frenemy Aaron Burr - the Salieri to Hamilton's Mozart, the Javert to his Jean Valjean, the Judas to his JCS. The entwined journeys of these two temperamental opposites is key to the drama.
Right Hand Man
Both vie for the attentions of George Washington, Revolutionary War hero and first American President. Washington feels the weight of history in his decision-making - not something that seems to trouble the current White House occupant...
I Know Him
One figure perhaps more familiar to British audiences - if not in this guise - is our own George III. Here, the monarch is a comic panto baddie who expresses himself via Sixties British Invasion (get it?) pop at its most mansplaining-y.
The Schuyler Sisters
It's not all about the guys, though. Meet Angelica, Eliza (and Peggy), a trio imbued with - for an historical musical - a surprising amount of agency and even proto-feminist thinking.
And parenthood also looms large: both the search for father figures and the revelation of birth, with all its joys, fears and responsibilities - alongside the difficult birth of a nation.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
Plus: there's official genius (according to the MacArthur Foundation) Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brilliantly refracts this story through hip-hop. Unlikely? Consider that Alexander Hamilton is an orphan who wrote his way out of a tough life and - in Miranda's words - "caught beef" with every other Founding Father.
Here, Gary Naylor breaks down one of the show's typically textured, thrilling numbers - "a masterpiece within a masterpiece".
There's also the deliberate decision to cast actors of colours, challenging notions of America's creation and self-image - and signalling something of an industry revolution at the same time. If you have friends who claim to hate all musical theatre, Hamilton may prove the exception.
That Would Be Enough
Or if you still need more, how about this: 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy and a Pulitzer. Plus box office records, a triple-platinum cast album and a lauded mixtape version.
The Room Where It Happens
The UK production lands at the multi-million-pound refurbished (just in time) Victoria Palace Theatre in London's West End - have a peek here.
Treading those new boards is an impressive cast: Jamael Westman, Giles Terera, Rachel John, Rachelle Ann Go, Obioma Ugoala, Christine Allado, Michael Jibson, Tarinn Cellender, Jason Pennycooke and Cleve September.
Wait For It
Well, that's the downside: the initial run (until 30 June, 2018) is sold out. BUT there will be Premium tickets released every Monday at noon for that week's performances, plus £10 daily lottery tickets - details here. Plus there's a still a chance to enter the Prizeo competition.
No? Consider that the show has transcended the often insular theatre world to become a genuine cultural touchstone - from the inevitable Simpsons reference to contemporary political wrangling, contributing to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, and keeping A. Ham on the $10 bill.
Meet Me Inside
And now that you're a Hamilton convert, here's a sneak peek at the West End show - from the company's first day of rehearsals to the last in the rehearsal studio
Their first day of tech
Stephanie Klemons (@Steph_Klem) November 20, 2017
And Miranda visiting
Stephen Whitson (@stephenwhitson) November 30, 2017
It's fair to say he and associate choreographer Stephanie Klemons are enjoying themselves...
"Post-First-Full-Tech-Run-Through-Feeling-All-The-Feels" Dance- Stephanie Klemons (@Steph_Klem) November 28, 2017
Choreographed by: Stephanie & Lin pic.twitter.com/RncRZ9MKaw
And that he's pleased with both the very British warm-up, and the result!
Plus David Korins offers some insight into the design process.
David Korins (@DavidKorins) November 15, 2017
You can also learn more via the Broadway Backstory podcast, and see the original Broadway cast performing at the Tony Awards below - but beware spoilers...
You'll Be Back
We hope! There's plenty more Hamilton coming your way on BroadwayWorld - including our review on 21 December. Watch this space...