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Lin-Manuel Miranda

Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman, The Public Theater and Cameron Mackintosh

Palace Theatre, Manchester

November 11, 2023-February 24, 2024; 2 hrs 50 mins

(also at the Liverpool Empire and Sunderland Empire in 2024, dates to be confirmed)

DeAngelo Jones, Shaq Taylor, Billy Nevers and KM Drew Boateng in Hamilton. All pics: Danny Kaan
DeAngelo Jones, Shaq Taylor, Billy Nevers and KM Drew Boateng in Hamilton. All pics: Danny Kaan
Image showing a five star rating

If you’d been living on Mars before you took your seat for Hamilton at the Palace on press night, the whoops and cheers that greeted the request to turn off your phone might have given you an inkling that this was going to be something rather special. The announcement had come from King George III, certainly, but the expectation in this crowd was feverish.

Just as well, then, that this new touring version of the giant of Broadway and the West End lived up to every plaudit it has received since it opened in 2015.

The Palace is rightly proud of its record of hosting huge hit musicals on their first foray outside the capital. Others have been bigger shows, but none has been more applauded and praised by critics and public alike: a Pulitzer prize for drama, 11 Tony awards and seven Olivier awards offer some idea of Hamilton's popularity and acclaim.

With the first explosion of the opening number (Alexander Hamilton, just in case you’d forgotten where you were) and the whirr of distinctly un-18th century bodies across the stage, the gauntlet is thrown down.

Energy pulses off a stage that looks even bigger than usual, with its spare, two-level set framing the birth of a nation with awe-inspiring solidity.

And so we are off, with that most miraculous of achievements – a hip-hop musical that is sung throughout, and with such sparkling diction and clarity of exposition that even the most traditional theatregoer can become expert on the founding fathers before the interval.

The story – one you would almost certainly have slept through at school – follows the brilliant, driven but flawed Hamilton from his roots as the orphaned child of a Scottish father and Anglo-French mother, to being George Washington’s right-hand man and the polymath who effectively invented the American systems of government and finance.

Shaq Taylor portrays him with passion, grace and a depth of sympathetic emotion which saw him almost in tears at the curtain call. (He is currently gracing our small screens, by the way, as the chap with an unhealthy dedication to Ikea furniture and a Marcos-sized collection of their bags. So, quite the range to his talents, then.)

That level of performance is reflected by the whole cast in this extraordinary show, directed by Thomas Kail with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision by Alex Lacamoire. All the design elements are excellent, but Paul Tazewell's costumes, with immaculate uniforms and frockcoats donned and discarded with military precision, are a joy.

Of course there are fan-favourites, chief among them Billy Nevers as the Marquis de Lafayette, who morphs seamlessly into Thomas Jefferson – a master of the sly wink to the audience and the casual hand flick – and Daniel Boys as King George. Aisha Jawando’s soaring soul vocals as Angelica Schuyler bring the house down. This is one of those shows where 20 minutes of the run time is for curtain calls and mid-show cheering...

I did wonder if the hip-hop might feel a touch dated, eight years on; my companion, something of an expert is this field, assured me it didn’t, and that there were nods and hat-tips throughout to some of the genre’s masters. Notorious BIG was mentioned, among others I would struggle to spell.

If I had to find one Craig Revel Horwood-style spoilsport moment, it would be that Eliza (Maya Britto) was rather low key in the first act. Yes, she was young, naïve, overshadowed and overawed by her man, but there were moments when we might have expected a glimpse of the fierce woman who later burned his letters in a fury after his adultery, then fought for his rightful place in the history books.

But unlike Strictly's Craig, none of this stops me brandishing my five-star paddle.

Kill for a ticket! Just don’t use duelling pistols.

More info and tickets here


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