The highly-anticipated, Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton has finally arrived at Manchester’s Palace Theatre with not a bum note, only bums on every seat. Packed to the rafters last night (November 21), Hamilton’s arrival in Manchester marks a cultural moment for the city as locals and people in the North can finally be in the ‘room where it happens’.
Hamilton is the story of America then, told by America now. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway all into one. Hamilton has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre – a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics, and education.
With book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography. The creative team behind Hamilton has also previously collaborated on the Tony Award-Winning Best Musical In the Heights.
You may have seen the biographical musical released on Disney+ in 2020 consisting of a live stage recording of the 2015 Broadway musical of the same name, which has boosted the musical’s popularity. As appealing as it may be to watch the mesmerising show in the comfort of your own home, it cannot replicate the atmosphere and chills you get from watching Hamilton at Manchester Palace Theatre and the stars both from the West End show and fresh for this tour have unbelievable talent that cannot go unmissed.
Transforming a part of history that some may describe as a little on the dry side, Hamilton gives the historical story some real, show-stopping oomph. With just the right doses of witty one liners, punchy dance numbers and actors waxing lyrical this musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda leaves audiences awestruck.
Like a stone, no corner of the stage has been left unturned as seamless choreographed routines as well as lighting and sound effects take place high and low, stage left, stage right and edging on the wings. It goes without saying that our main man Alexander Hamilton is a name that won’t be forgotten and neither will Shaq Taylor’s, who portrays him.
Shaq Taylor, who has starred in theatre shows such as Beauty and The Beast and Jesus Christ Superstar, brought a magnetic energy to the stage, portraying the complex character with a talented mix of charisma and vulnerability. His dominant stage presence as the lead made it easy to see how people could fall for the charm of Alexander Hamilton, while his vocal delivery never missed a beat.
Whilst Hamilton is considered a controversial character, in this hypnotic and talent-bursting show you can’t help but root for him. With big shoes to fill as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jamael Westman have both played the role of Hamilton, Shaq Taylor nails it as the protagonist and makes the role his own.
But another actor who certainly isn’t throwing away his shot (and his aim is on point) is Sam Oladeinde who plays Aaron Burr. Like how the two main characters cross paths constantly with one another in the storyline, Burr is everywhere – narrating, choruses and part of the ensemble, to solos and duets (and duels) with Hamilton. Oladeinde’s performance did an incredible job at capturing the character’s internal conflicts, personal turmoil and ‘talk less, smile more’ demeanour.
Despite being a musical with a long duration (nearly three hours), you will certainly not be able to peel your eyes away from the stage. With punchy choreography and flashes of light breaking up the dialogue and song lyrics, your eyes (if not all of your senses) are constantly absorbed at what’s happening on stage.
Speaking of stage, the moving stage was a sight to behold creating smooth transitions, flashbacks/rewinds and adding pace to scenes – all of which sucked the audience further into the storyline. A musical number that took full advantage of the moving stage’s potential (and the choreography team’s flowing routines) was ‘Ten Duel Commandments’ which sees Laurens and Lee prepare to duel with Hamilton and Burr as their seconds.
The characters played by Billy Nevers (Marquis de Lafayette/ Thomas Jefferson), DeAngelo Jones (John Laurens/ Philip Hamilton) and KM Drew Boateng (Hercules Mulligan/James Maddison) offer a refreshing dose of excitement and humour to contrast Hamilton’s seriousness (the man writes like he’s running out of time). The scene where all four characters break into noteworthy song ‘My Shot’ is sensational as each actor raps fluidly, banging tankards on the table to the beat, building plenty of excitement on stage and in the audience for what’s to come next.
King George III (played by Daniel Boys) is another character full of quips, which were very much welcomed within a British theatre. His rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’ was a tongue-in-cheek song that resulted in chuckles from the audience and his brief stage appearances added some lightness to what would might otherwise been a full-on history lesson.
The musical may be about the founding fathers of America but it’s the women in Hamilton who make the story literally and metaphorically sing – petition for a show solely about the Schuyler sisters, Eliza, Angelica and Peggy. The vocals from Maya Britto (Eliza Hamilton), Aisha Jawando (Angelica Schuyler) and Gabriella Benedetti (Peggy Schuyler/ Maria Reynolds) are jaw-droppingly good.
One of the most powerful songs had to be ‘Burn’ sung by Maya Britto as she ‘erases herself from the narrative’, which was filled with emotion that left some of the audience wiping the tears away. However, Aisha Jawando’s rendition of ‘Satisfied’ alongside Shaq Taylor and company, was impressive as she hits the high notes marvellously and sings rapidly, clearly and with so much energy to the hip-hop and Broadway fusion song.
Not only do you need to prepare for a history lesson like no other, be ready for tears of both laughter and sadness, picking your jaw off the floor as you marvel at the dance routines and stage effects and sore hands from all the clapping and standing ovations (all very much necessary, by the way). So rise up and book a ticket to Hamilton in Manchester whilst you can, as it won’t just be me returning…
Hamilton will have a 15 week run in Manchester until Saturday 24 February 2024, with tickets now on sale here. The show will then be followed by a run at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, followed by performances in Bristol, Birmingham, Dublin, Cardiff, Bradford, Southampton, Liverpool, Sunderland, Plymouth and Norwich.