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Hamilton – Birmingham Hippodrome

Reviewer: Mattie Bagnall

Book, Music and Lyrics: Lyn-Manuel Miranda

Director: Thomas Kail

Hamilton has arrived in Birmingham to the same fanfare which greeted its original 2015 debut on Broadway, and has captivated young and old alike for the best part of a decade. The fact that the Birmingham Hippodrome is only one of multiple venues dotted around the world that Hamilton can be enjoyed right now is testament to its success as a rapidly growing musical.

So, what makes a musical documenting the life of Alexander Hamilton so successful? While its historical and cultural significance is there for all to see, its ability to mesmerise audiences is because of its rhythmic beauty in what is a unique rap based musical. Hamilton feels authentic, and it is clear that the educational factors help drive the story along through careful inspiration from Ron Chernow’s biography.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s expertly devised music and lyrics are the centrepiece for this musical. There is something deeply satisfying about the way in which the story is presented in a rhythmic and creative way including rap battles between presidential candidates! Hamilton was a long-time project in the making and in partnership with director Thomas Kail, the story of the American Revolution was brought to stage in the most unexpected and vibrant way possible.

The opening to the show captures this perfectly with a rousing and energetic introduction to Alexander Hamilton himself, who is played masterfully by the experienced Shaq Taylor. Every twist and turn of Hamilton’s journey through the hard-fought American revolution to sex scandals and political infighting is captured well by Taylor.

The entire cast demonstrate exceptional vocal skills and master the ability to present the story in its poetic form. Special mention must also go to Sam Oladeinde who portrays the ambitious yet unsuccessful rival to Jefferson’s presidential campaign (Aaron Burr), ultimately fuelling the bitter and tragic ending to Alexander Hamilton. Miranda has been known to comment that two of the best songs he has ever written were both given to Burr, and one of them (Wait for it) is delivered with power by Oladeinde.

Billy Nevers does a fine job in the egotistical role of Thomas Jefferson, while Daniel Boys brings many comedic moments as the pompous and sarcastic King George who already commands laughter from the expectant audience before he even breathes a word. Maya Britto as Eliza Hamilton is fantastic in her role, especially with her rendition of ‘Burn’where she captures the vulnerability and catalogue of emotions that she is feeling in that moment.

The ending itself is presented imaginatively with time freezing at the most pivotal moment to take in one last reflection from the protagonist – Alexander Hamilton – before the inevitable is revealed to all. This is one of many moments within the show where the relationship between music, choreography and set design is at its strongest. The set and costume designs are designed with practicality in mind, but are striking nonetheless as we are convincingly transported back to the 1800s. The use of a revolving stage adds to much of the action and the choreography within each musical number.

Miranda and Kail may have been surprised themselves at how a biographic story of one of the founding fathers of the United States became so successful. On paper, many others will also be surprised, but this musical is exceptional when the words on paper are transferred to stage in the most creative and imaginative ways. In a world where rap has arguably become one of the most popular music genres, Hamilton is able to marry rap and musical theatre together to create this masterpiece.

Runs until 31 August 2024 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A Musical Masterpiece

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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