Hamilton | Live Show Review

Ruth Deller
Thursday, March 28, 2024

It’s an exhilarating night of theatre that every musicals fan should experience at least once

DeAngelo Jones, Shaq Taylor, Billy Nevers and KM Drew Boateng (photography: Danny Kaan)
DeAngelo Jones, Shaq Taylor, Billy Nevers and KM Drew Boateng (photography: Danny Kaan)

It’s hard to believe Hamilton is only nine years old. The impact Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical has had on popular culture has been so enormous that it’s already as well known as musicals that have been playing for decades. Even those who don’t follow theatre are likely familiar with the show’s name and reputation, its iconic logo and, quite possibly, even one or two of the most famous songs.

It focuses on the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the USA, and on the period of history where the nation as we know it today was established. Its unique appeal is its contemporary approach, including the use of hip-hop in the music and choreography, its quick-witted lyrics and catchy score, and its casting of actors of colour in almost all principal roles.

For many fans in the UK and Ireland, the wait to see the show in person has been long unless you were able to travel to the West End (or even overseas). But with an extensive tour lasting until late 2025, there’s now a chance to see it in a range of venues – the first stop a three-month residency in Manchester.

The cast for this tour is headed by Shaq Taylor as Hamilton, who has received excellent reviews for his portrayal, but on the night I covered it, the role was played by the Alternate, Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez. His Hamilton is the very definition of ‘young, scrappy and hungry’, all youthful bravado, swagger and arrogance, whose conviction in his own importance proves his undoing. He is perhaps less statesman-like than Miranda’s original performance, but no less compelling. This Alexander Hamilton is clearly brilliant but arrogant and undisciplined – in stark contrast to those who go on to hold the power and status he never would: the authoritative, fatherly George Washington; and the charismatic Thomas Jefferson.

As Washington, Charles Simmons (who also played the role in Hamburg) gives us a real sense of the passion and pain behind the first President and he acts as a grounded moral anchor for much of the story. In contrast, Billy Nevers as both Jefferson and Lafayette commands the stage every time he bounces around with seemingly endless energy. It’s a close call who gets the biggest laughs, Nevers or Daniel Boys as King George. The pompous monarch is one of the most crowd-pleasing roles in the show and Boys is relishing it, as if it were the role he was born to play.

At the other emotional extreme, Maya Britto’s expressive performance takes us on a believable journey as Hamilton’s wife Eliza, who goes from wide-eyed innocent to passionate campaigner via a series of painful heartbreaks. Aisha Jawando plays her elder sister Angelica, who has a love for Alexander but who loves her sister even more. Jawando perfectly captures the character’s sense of steely pragmatism coupled with enormous pain and has a uniquely powerful and emotive voice.

Sam Oladeinde plays Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s friend-turned-foe with a slow-burning intensity that conveys his growing bewilderment and envy at those around him achieving a level of power he dreams of but will never have the conviction or charisma to attain.

There are no weak links in the cast – the smaller roles are just as compelling and dynamic to watch as the principals, and the fantastic ensemble takes on the bulk of the complex and exciting choreography, rarely leaving the stage.

The rotating floor, rugged two-level set with moving staircase, beautiful lighting and powerful orchestration are great vehicles for the story and music – it’s a slick show that has been very well-polished (this version is very faithful to the original Broadway production) and the pace never drags despite the running time (including interval) being almost three hours. It’s clear why this musical has become a modern classic. It’s an exhilarating night of theatre that every musicals fan should experience at least once. For UK and Ireland residents, this tour offers the perfect chance.

Production credits

Cast Shaq Taylor, Jonathan Hermosa-Lopez, Sam Oladeinde, Maya Britto, Aisha Jawando, Charles Simmons, Billy Nevers, KM Drew Boateng et al

Associate direction Stephen Whitson

Musical direction Zach Flis

Associate musical supervision Richard Beadle

Associate choreography Carrie-Anne Ingrouille

Set David Harris

Lighting Warren Letton

Sound Kelsh B-D

Costumes Ella Denis King

Producers Jeffrey Seller, Sandy Jacobs, Jill Furman, The Public Theater, Thomas Schönberg, Cameron Mackintosh

Lin-Manuel Miranda music, lyrics, book

Palace Theatre, Manchester 11 Nov 2023 – 24 Feb 2024, then touring UK and Ireland. Reviewed on 11 December 2023

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2024 issue of Musicals magazine. Never miss an issue – subscribe today