- Gareth Crook
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
I know a little bit about America’s founding fathers. Not a lot, it’s not really taught in the UK. That’s not important though. Knowing any history to enjoy this I mean, not America’s independence. Musicals aren’t my thing either and certainly not musical theatre, which this is with several exclamation points. What we have here is the theatre production, filmed, fairly simply. A few camera angles covering the stage, mostly wide to show off a lovely set, occasional close up to, well to provide some variation in the edit, nothing more. This is the thing, it’s a show designed to be enjoyed in the room. There’s no set camera positions. The camera is normally your eye from your seat. That’s not possible right now though, which is why this exists. So it’s not a film. It works though and it’s undeniably a spectacle. If you don’t like singing and dancing, you might think you’re buggered. Honestly though, this is pretty top quality singing and dancing, you’re in safe hands. It’s fast and fun, the energy dialled all the way up. The mix of humour, hip hop and show tunes will make even the most hardened cynic smile. Alright it’s gimmicky, actors spitting bars wearing frock-coats, declaring war, but I guess the rules are different in theatre and it’s very effective. In film it’s often said that if the actors look like they’re having too much fun, the audience aren’t. I don’t think that applies here either, everybody looks to be having the time of their lives and the live audience, that we hear but don’t see, seem to be too. It’s pretty lengthy, but there’s a lot in there, not least a pretty eventful life story. Alexander Hamilton. Rags to revolutionary. A social climbing agitator, with a love of writing and setting up financial institutions. Weddings, duals, adultery, bribery, a bloody big war and a lot of political manoeuvring. The historical content is top line stuff, covering the basics. They’re touch points really, never allowing the story to get too dry, but it manages this without dumbing it down too much and the razor sharp humour helps, “Immigrants we get the job done”. The cast are wonderful. Daveed Diggs as both Lafayette and Jefferson is the standout for me. There are quieter moments, but there’s sequences where it’s one bombastic banger after another. Canon fire and scratching, the score gets pretty raucous. I went it with a little trepidation, but Lin-Manuel Miranda has indeed created something marvellous. It. Is. Spine-tinglingly brilliant. I might have to stop saying I don’t like musicals.