On the 29th of January 2016, I posted this to facebook:
I have, by the force of Peer Pressure and curiosity, started listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s full of some beautiful examples of high crafted rap music, delicious rhymes and ironies. But the tune that sticks in my head?
“And when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.”
That would have been a few months after fyr started recommending it at me. I liked it a lot, so was happy when the London show was announced, then sad again when it booked up a year in advance within an hour of opening. Then a little while later friend Katherine said she’d bought a set of tickets, and would I like to come? April 2018 seemed impossibly far away at that point, and indeed I’ve been through two jobs since then, but I said yes. So today I went to see Hamilton.
Conclusion: It’s really good, you should go see it.
The rest of this post contains comparisons to the soundtrack and various official youtube release versions. I will dispense this advice, now:
- Jamael Westman as Hamilton is incredible. Towering above everybody else on stage (He’s 6’4″, and about three heads taller than Eliza) and able to control the stage from pretty much anywhere on it, his Hamilton goes on a journey from the ropey disconnected attempts to fit into the dance numbers at the start to a still commanding presence later on.
- I’m going to try not to get caught up on the height thing, but the shorter Lafayette/Jefferson compared to Lin Manuel & Daveed does kind of change that power dynamic in an interesting way.
- Mostly, characterisation was the same as Broadway, Jason Pennycooke‘s Lafayette retains a strong “french” accent which had some detrimental effects on the faster raps, but did distinguish him a great deal from Jefferson
- Less impressed with Burr, tbh. His parts in the ensemble were fine, but he had trouble holding the lead compared to others.
- He got a lot better in act 2.
- Eliza too, but that’s a function of the structure, perhaps.
- I knew “The Orphanage” would break me, but the way the line happened on stage – the flash of enthusiasm “Oh.. Can I tell you?” of introducing someone’s pride and joy. Yeah.
- Quiet Uptown ambushed me. It waited in the bushes, and it struck. I knew it was coming, I knew it of old.
- King George was fantastic, petulant and mercurial. Didn’t look anything like the guy in the program, so maybe an understudy?
- But, an interesting thing: At the end of the John Adams “You’ll be back”, he sat down on a stool and remained on stage, giggling at the Adams reaction, reacting to the events, part of the hurricane, reading the Reynolds Pamphlet, and then vanishing off stage quietly. It was an interesting choice, and the actor was remarkably good at knowing when to steal the show and when to fade as far into the background as that incredible crown let him.
- The staging and choreography was great throughout, minimal furniture to get across what is needed, but every prop and costume perfect for the moment.
- I’ve listened to bits of the Broadway soundtrack on the way home, and I can tell the differences now (I was avoiding listening to it for the last few months to enjoy the show as its own thing a bit more), but it’s really interesting how having seen the show, and knowing the movement and context for lines, changes how I hear them on the soundtrack.
It was great, and I’m glad I went. Also, it’s reminded me that theatre and musicals are a thing I really enjoy going to see, and I should do more of that.