(seen at the afternoon performance on 23rd December 2017).
For several years, the monkey has actively avoided anything to do with this
show. It desperately wanted to come to it "fresh," knowing nothing except the
fact it was written by the creator of its favourite "In The Heights" and that it
is about American politics. Thus, everything written here is the view of a
monkey seeing and hearing every note fresh and without expectation.
start, it wishes to make two important points: first, that no show can carry
that much weight of expectation. Second, this is absolutely NOT "Les Misérables"
in terms of breaking new ground theatrically or in any other way. This show is
very much its own creation.
It's a history lesson, given by one of the coolest, funniest, hippest
lecturers around. The show has a reputation as a "rap" musical. That's not
accurate. It's a fusion. Yes, rap plays a strong part - lending a high degree of
humour, most often. It still, though, has plenty of traditional musical theatre
vocal, and lyrics are clear whether spoken or sung. Better still, there is no
repetitive drumbeat as non-rap fans may fear.
Our guide is Aaron Burr (Giles Terera), friend of immigrant Hamilton (James
Westman) and sometime narrator of the plot, as well as protagonist. Not always
in "The Room Where It Happens" but vital, and played with verve.
Hamilton himself is a flawed genius, wife Eliza (Rachelle Ann Go)
long-suffering, the pair as fine a musical theatre couple as you will find
anywhere in the West End.
Other characters (to say more would reveal the plot) move in and out of
Hamilton's life as history unfolds, but to mention a few, Michael Jibson (King
George) delivers wonderful musical speeches, starting with "You'll Be Back" and
Rachel John (Angelica Schuyler), Christine Allado (Peggy Schuyler) and Obioma
Ugoala (George Washington) all deserve particular note.
For the monkey, the second half was meatier than the first, as the real
politics kicked in. The whole show is episodic in nature, with some spectacular
set pieces and impressive Andy Blankenbuehler choreography. The lyric has some
lovely turns of phrase, true wit and beautifully considered references as
appropriate. The music has elements of "In The Heights" in the way an
"apprentice piece" will eventually reflect a later master craftsman's work.
If it is honest, it did find this harder to love, simply as the characters
are less endearing than Miranda's earlier work. There's also an odd, slightly
"plastic" feel too. Partly hands that had nothing to do with the original
evolution have been at work, partly that this just feels a little "cloned" from
the original. That aside, it's individual and
certainly has a different voice - one that must be heard as it constantly draws
parallels with today. A history lesson and a lesson for the future in a single
show, that's pretty good going, thinks the monkey.