We’re in a room where it happens but it’s not THE room. In the years after a game-changing musical there are guaranteed years of imitators coming along to try to bask in some of the glory, and more importantly, box office bonanza’s of these works.
It hasn’t taken long for Hamilton’s influence to take hold, SUFFRAGEDDONis so in thrall to it, that its commissioner Deborah Frances-White, of the Guilty Feminist podcast, bounds on stage before the work to gush in her admiration. In its way it’s smart to highlight the work’s influence, Lin-Miranda Manuel’s scintillating piece is hot in a way no musical has been since Rentand arguably more culturally influential then anything since the mega-musical surge of the 1980s and the theatre tent was turning people away in is droves, but in sticking so closely to that work’s structure, tones and even character traits (the one white performer plays the snooty aristocratic villain although without the elan), artistically its risky. In leading yourself to be compared there can only be one winner.
It’s not to say that there aren’t strong things to develop moving forward; In the centenary of women finally gaining the vote it’s tale of those who helped cause this seismic political shift is as fascinating and important a story to tell as Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers of the United States. Omahrose and Mark Hodge’s score offers some catchy earworms, the nine-strong cast attack the piece with verve and style and there is something inherently thrilling about seeing such a diverse cast give voice to the past in the musical idioms of the present. Yet this work in progress preview struggled with uneven sound levels that drowned out the vocals and a structure that was overtly episodic and narratively incoherent.
The talk beforehand suggests that they are looking for a West End run and actively seeking investment, but for that to become reality they need to step out of the shadow of Miranda’s award-garlanded masterpiece and find more of their own voice.