'Hip hop masterpiece' Hamilton comes to London
It’s been described as a hip hop masterpiece, a show that’s transformed musical theatre, and now the first London audience will get to see if Hamilton lives up to its hype.
Mark Shenton, associate editor of The Stage, is confident it will. He describes the show as “thrilling”.
He said: “I’ve seen it four times on Broadway… and it’s a musical that rewrites history, literally because it’s about a historical subject, but it also does it in a form that is completely ground breaking.”
Combining hip hop and musical theatre, on paper the show certainly had the potential to be more than a little embarrassing but its success comes down to the man behind it.
Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has been praised by some of the biggest names in hip hop for the respect and understanding his musical shows for the genre.
Using rap to tell the life story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, it has won countless awards for making history relatable.
As Miranda has said in previous interviews, the aim was to “present America then, in a way that we understand now”.
Audience engagement was something he had to master early on when he worked in schools.
“He used to be a supply teacher – doing the same sort of thing that I do,” spoken word artist Christian Foley explains.
“We’re using the same techniques in education because he knows that it works and I know that it works.”
Foley is poet in residence at three East London schools. Teaching English by encouraging students to rap might be unorthodox but the results are impressive.
Students at St Elizabeth Catholic Primary School are enraptured watching him freestyle and keen to show off their own poetry.
He said: “Rapping is speaking the language that children are used to hearing; I’m able to present terms to them in that format.
“Children might not be able to identify the dates of historical events but they can remember all the lyrics to certain songs.
“Now, with hip hop, people are realising how thought provoking and clever it is and that’s why people are like ‘okay we can use this in education’.”
Hamilton is the embodiment of how rap can be used to educate and inspire. From its music through to its diverse casting, it has proven to be a game-changing piece of theatre – the only problem is its popularity.
Anyone without a ticket now will struggle to get one. A daily lottery for £10 cheap seats provides the smallest glimmer of hope, but the first round of tickets that went on sale sold out long ago.
The soundtrack is the closest most of us are likely to get to hearing Hamilton, if you want to see it on stage then brace yourself for what could be a very long wait.
Hamilton opens for previews on Wednesday 6 December at the Victoria Palace theatre.
The official opening night is on Thursday 21 December.
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