Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece Hamilton has won all the awards, it has been playing to sold-out houses in New York and London. Come 2021 and it will be running in Sydney. It was rumoured that there were plans for it in Germany but the language proved too difficult for the hip-hop rap.
Yes, it deserves the awards, it lives up to the hype. Alexander Hamilton as the subject is one of the United States’ founding fathers little known outside the US, and not so well known, until the musical, even inside the US. He was a self-made man, fought in the War of Independence, was George Washington’s right-hand man – so far nothing suggesting a good subject for a musical. Miranda, however, saw more to the story. He read a biography and decided he was the man – there is love, betrayal, comradeship, loss and redemption.
Hamilton was not Miranda’s first musical, nor the first to benefit from his rap style, but it is by far his best. The rhythm, the narrative told through rap covers a lot of ground and through rap is told through an underclasses style of communication.
The London production was tight, the cast precise in their dance which embodied the energy of the whole production. Favourite scenes are with King George III played by Jon Robyns, a great role and the type of character that would have been played by Hugh Laurie in his comic days. Jamael Westman played Hamilton brilliantly as did Sifiso Mazibuko playing Aaron Burr, his nemesis.
The show is long, but not obviously, there is so much energy in the production that I could have turned around and seen it all again. And for a new musical, it was one where I actually could come out of the theatre humming the numbers, well particularly King George’s riff in You’ll Be Back and the strong In The Room Where It Happens.
Miranda packs a lot into the show and through the style can convey a lot about Hamilton’s history, in fact, there is so much that it certainly merits another viewing just to catch anything that might have been missed.
The story is culturally diverse and focuses on the contribution immigrants have made to America. The casting is colour blind which is perfect for the story, the way it is told and the people telling it.
For more information visit the Sydney Lyric Theatre.
Come from Away
In the aftermath of 9/11 I don’t remember any mention of the town of Gander, Newfoundland, which looked after 39 diverted flights from the US. In fact, even years later, I don’t remember anything about the town.
This musical changes that. Writing the story, Irene Sankoff and David Hein thought such an uplifting tale of human kindness, acceptance and generosity during such a difficult time would make a great musical. They were right.
The cast of a dozen actors were all moving quickly from one character to the next, as townsfolk, as stranded passengers, of different people in the story, but in every incarnation, they took us on the journey, willingly.
Newfoundland (who knew?) has a predominance of Irish settlers. Coming for the fishing, they settled bringing their culture, language, accent and music with them. The musical has a definitely Irish influence with instruments such as bodhran, squeezebox, fiddle and tin whistle.
The story is uplifting and whilst, at first, there are thoughts of naiveté and simpleness in the people of Gander, the resultant kindness and good nature is infectious. The musical is one of the more modern styles of musical focusing on the ensemble – a strong one.
There is a band on the fringes of the stage and several lovely songs from those who were true stories from real passengers from that event.
It’s a short show – 100 minutes without an interval – that has you enraptured throughout.
For musical lovers and those wanting a feel-good night at the theatre.
The musical is currently on in Melbourne.
For more information and tickets visit Come From Away.
If Henry VIII’s six wives had to compete on a reality TV show to decide which of them had it toughest – Six would be it. It captures the attention of teenage girls in a similar way that the Horrible Histories encouraged young boys to want to learn more about history.
Appealing to a cult following of teenage fans, Six is loud, clever and entertaining. It is also an ode to girl power – and instead of it being history it is very much focusing on her-story.
Each of the women wants to tell their story without too much referencing to Henry. He is the reason for their fame but ultimately they are the reason for his fame. What was Henry known for if it wasn’t having his six wives?
The London cast was strong and varied. Newcomer to the role of Catherine of Aragon was Vicki Manser, as was Aimee Atkinson as Catherine Howard. Natalie Paris was able to belt out her number as Jane Seymour with great strength. The 75-minute musical is fast, furious and has a sense of urgency in competition.
For more information visit Six.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Never having seen this and not being able to resist seeing Jason Donovan – this time as the Pharaoh and not Joseph – this classic deserves a special mention.
First performed in 1968, Joseph is a pastiche of musical styles – including parodies of French ballads (Those Canaan Days), Elvis-inspired rock and roll (Song of the King), country hoe-down (One More Angel In Heaven), Jewish traditional music (Close Every Door), calypso (Benjamin Calypso) and even go-go (Go, Go, Go Joseph) and a tap-dancing number (Potiphar).
Donovan in the big Elvis number is stupendous – it seems to be one encore after another but it’s still not enough. Many women in the audience came to see Jason as Joseph in the 1990s with Phillip Schofield as the Pharaoh.
Any Dream Will Do is the main song; it starts the musical and recurs throughout. The musical provides hints of what is to come with the songwriting duo – the large rock opera sounds of Superstar and the varied styles in Evita. And despite being very young when they wrote Joseph, it remains a classic and a blueprint for writing a good musical – engaging narrative, songs you can hum on exiting the theatre and wide appeal.
For more information visit Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.