Hamilton Is Set to Take London’s West End by Storm
By: Ellis Nassour
After a problem-plagued delay, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning phenomenon Hamilton, opened December 21 on London’s West End at the historic Victoria Palace Theatre (Victoria Street, London SW1E 5EA) in Westminster in the shadow of the newly-renovated Victoria Station. Lead producer is Broadway’s Tony-winning Jeffrey Seller, with original director Thomas Kail helming. The musical has been in previews since December 6, a slight rescheduling because of ongoing exterior construction. Performances have been met with pandemonium response from audiences. The musical is shaping up to be a bloody triumph, no doubt with a Royal Command Performance in its future.
The excitement of a London Hamilton has been building since the opening on Broadway in August, 2015. The box office is booking through next June.
Starring in the acclaimed musical is Jamael Westman as Hamilton [with Ash Hunter in the role at certain performances]. Co-starring are Allado (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), Rachelle Ann Go (Eliza Hamilton), Tarinn Callender (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison), Michael Jibson (King George), Rachel John (Angelica Schuyler), Jason Pennycooke (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), Cleve September (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton), Giles Terera (Aaron Burr), and Obioma Ugoala (George Washington). Featured is an ensemble of 19.
Andy Blankenbuehler returns to choreograph. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Alex Lacamoire. The musical is based on Alexander Hamilton by history biographer.Ron Chernow.
Previews were delayed two weeks, 16 performances, because of construction delays – including roof reconstruction, concerns over an ancient underground tunnel the theatre is built over, and city licenses and ordiances.
Some 16,000 ticket holders were affected. Seller and Sir Cameron issued apologies for the inconvenience, which did little to assuage anger and disappointment and, in some cases, money down the drain for those with discounted preview tickets, and the lot flying in to be at the first performance and the announced opening. Not to mention, some who paid £2,800 [over $3,700] or more on the ticket resale market in spite of some safeguards the producers and Tickemaster put into place.
“We are extremely sorry to disappoint patrons who we know expended time, effort and valuable resources to purchase tickets for our first performances,” said Seller. “But they will be given immediate priority so that they can be reseated as early as possible.” Regarding compensation for out-of-pocket travel and hotel costs, a spokesman for Delfont Mackintosh promised that “patrons would be contacted by Ticketmaster to discuss specific circumstances.”
Miranda also expressed regrets, “I share the frustration of everyone who has to get re-seated. This was an unprecedented renovation of the Victoria Palace. I’m anxious to see it and get to know the British cast.” On a lighter note, he told the Telegraph, “I’m anxious to see how the comedic portrayal of King George III [the monarch who lost the American colonies] is received – especially since the theatre is in close by Buckingham Palace. He’s a favorite with every actor, every rapper. There’s something about the character that has him become an audience surrogate.” He added he didn’t think the fact that detailing another country’s history would be an impediment to enjoying the musical.
Lest anyone doesn’t know, Miranda’s musical with its score of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and traditional theatre, tells of America’s “Founding Father,” born out of wedlock in Nevis, in the West Indies. After the death of his mother and being abandoned by his father, he was sponsored to travel her for his education at King’s College [Columbia University]. When his study was interrupted by the British occupation, he joined a militia and was soon promoted captain. He came to the attention of Revolutionary War commander George Washington, to whom he became senior aide. After the War, he shaped many of the foundations of the United States – including our Constitution and Treasury. He was often at odds with Jefferson and Burr. Ultimately, that latter conflict led to a duel in which Hamilton was mortally wounded.
Hamilton captured 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The musical is still running strong at Broadway’s Richard Rogers, as well as in Chicago, and on tour.
The last show to play the Victoria Palace was Lee Hall and Elton John’s Billy Elliot (2005), which ran 11 years. The venue, part of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, has a capacity of 1,500. Last month, it turned 106. It was designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham). Sir Cameron undertook an estimated £40-50-million [$50-60-million] top-to-bottom renovation and reconstruction. “I wanted it to be glamorous and contemporary,” he told media, “to be compatible with 21st-century production needs.”
The overhaul includes the restoration of the ornate marble lobby, murals, ornate plaster molding, boxes [with additional boxes, with private facilities], and the opulent Tudor Room; the “Lynne Promenade” [honoring famed Brit prima ballerina and Olivier and Tony-winning choreographer, and director Dame Gillian Lynne (Cats, Phantom of the Opera, The Roar of Greasepaint…; the 2014 U.K. premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World]. There’s plush news seating, a state-of-the-art sound system, and numerous additional loos [restrooms]. Backstage hasn’t been overlooked. There’s an artist’s green room for receptions and new dressing rooms with showers.
The producers [which include Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, the Public Theater and Sir Cameron] and Delfont Mackintosh are working to combat unauthorised profiteering of third party resellers and agencies. They have “pioneered” a paperless ticket system, powered by Ticketmaster. It appears to have had little effect.
Official box office prices are £37.50, £57.50 and £89.50, with premium seating at £137.50 and £200. Performances are Monday – Saturday at 7.30 P.M. and Thursday and Saturday at 2.30 P.M. For more information, visit www.hamiltonthemusical.co.uk, where there are details of the daily Hamilton West End £10 lottery via the official Hamilton app which can be downloaded from http://hamiltonmusical.com/lottery.
Production Photos: Matthew Murphy