Review Round-Ups

Were the critics satisfied with Hamilton?

The sensational hit opened in the West End last night

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"You can feel the anticipation in the auditorium of the glamorously refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre. There's a roar of delight as the first song, "Alexander Hamilton", starts and announces its intention to tell the story of the man on the US ten dollar bill, the founding father who died in a duel, and whose legacy was almost forgotten until Miranda decided he might make the perfect subject for a musical."

"What I started to appreciate was the radical way Miranda has structured his show. The first half, when Hamilton is on the rise, leading armies in the War of Independence, has an exhilarating punch. But the second, when his life disintegrates, is arguably even better, doing the more difficult thing of tracing the political enmities that bring him down, while creating sympathy for Burr. Scenes of violent action and rap battles in cabinet are succeeded by moments of quiet reflection, love songs in the dark, agonised moments of grief."

"It is one of those rare shows where each part clicks perfectly into every other. It has a justness to it. Thomas Kail's powerful production honours the complexity of the writing, while keeping things direct and simple. There's nothing extraneous."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"The performances also match the variety and energy of the music. Jamael Westman, not long out of drama school, invests Hamilton with immense authority, reminding us that words were always his most effective weapon and suggests a mixture of opportunist and visionary."

"Giles Terera plays Burr with an envious gleam as if he were Salieri to Hamilton’s Mozart and always slightly in awe of his rival’s whirlwind success. Obioma Ugoala’s Washington, Hamilton’s surrogate father, has great gravitas, Rachelle Ann Go lends Hamilton’s wife the poignancy of the neglected and Rachel John is impressive as his adoring sister-in-law. But the funniest performances, aside from Jibson’s English king, come from Jason Pennycooke who doubles as a patriotic Lafayette and a spring-heeled Jefferson in a maroon maxi who jives and jumps with glee as Hamilton’s fortunes fade."

"In the end, however, the power of Hamilton lies in its ability to make the past seem vividly present. It suggests its subject was an Icarus who flew too close to the sun."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"Hamilton is as good as the hype but not in the way I thought it would be. I wasn’t so much moved as riveted. This is like a rock concert where you don’t know the star. It’s a history book that has gone audio in a rather major way. The immigrants have grabbed the microphone. For more than 200 years, someone else has mostly told their story. No longer. They’re telling it loud and proud, with non-stop rap, hip-hop, R&B, bolstered with ballet, jazz dance and cartwheels."

"The show is also a political sketch that happens to have been written in rhyme. Oooh, the claws are out for Thomas Jefferson, played with much hip swivelling by Jason Pennycooke. "What did I miss?" he asks as he flounces in from France, arriving after all the blood had been spilt. There is also a hearty performance from Obioma Ugoala as George Washington, perhaps the original "strong and stable" type and a father figure for Hamilton."

"In a word, wow."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"Even if you miss particular references, you feel the gist on your pulse: there’s a continuum between then and now and it’s thrillingly compounded by the fact that America’s nemesis George III (a tour-de-force from Michael Jibson in the comic show-stopper of the night) once lived round the corner; he bought what became Buckingham Palace."

"So, far from standing at one aloof remove from this foreign import, then, it’s as if a vast arc of history, spanning centuries, has come full circle here in the West End. Look what we managed to do after we left you, the show says, in playfulness not anger. The awed answer from our side can only be: like, wow."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Like an expertly sequenced mixtape, Hamilton never settles on one tempo for too long. The introduction of the Schuyler sisters – Hamilton’s future wife Eliza (Rachelle Ann Go) and his soulmate Angelica (Rachel John) – lobs a bit of sparky, ’90s-style R&B into the mix, and cedes the bloke-tastic narrative to its female characters (briefly). And then Obioma Ugoala’s booming George Washington adds another shade entirely – a rumbling, soulful giant who rises over Hamilton and his incessant squabbling."

"The second half is bleaker. After the hero’s last legislative triumph – marked by Burr’s tour de force number "The Room Where It Happens", clearly the greatest song anyone will ever write about a clandestine tax deal – our hero goes into decline. The ending is soulful and sad and lower-key than you might expect. But the final question "who tells your story?", is also the exact right poser to end things on."

"That’s because the great symbolic power of Hamilton lies in its bold placement of immigrants, minorities and their culture at the very centre of the American narrative: it says, this story is ours too."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"It’s giving nothing away to mention his death, since it’s referenced in the opening song, and the show’s first three minutes — expository yet invigorating — make it clear that Hamilton‘s linguistic artistry is something Miranda shares. The lyrics are densely packed, layered with puns and embedded rhymes, and their bristling intricacy justifies Miranda’s thesis that hip-hop is — or at any rate can be — the authentic sound of the American Revolution."

"The score, lyrics and book are all his. For rap fans there’s the pleasure of spotting references to Grandmaster Flash, Mobb Deep, DMX and the Notorious B.I.G. But he's also sensitive to the history of musical theatre, with nods to Les Misérables, Stephen Sondheim and the tongue-twisting patter of Gilbert and Sullivan. At times the show’s tone is lushly operatic, and it's punctuated with bluesy moments, bar-room rowdiness, R&B ballads and even some twiddly harpsichord, richly orchestrated by Alex Lacamoire."

Adam Bloodworth, Metro


"Hamilton‘s playful wit and charm exudes from more than just its lead. Michael Jibson, who plays King George, mainly appears on stage alone but feels omnipresent with his piss-take impression of a pompous British aristocrat, and his performance proudly borrows from pantomime – that’s right, a seriously credible show with a character worthy of going ‘boo, hiss!’ to."

"Then there is the boldly daring and frankly unusual ending. The show ends with the virtuous tale of Eliza, Hamilton’s widow, who lived 50 years after Hamilton and continued his work. She is played candidly and spiritedly by Rachelle Ann Go, who, pointing out into the newly-rebuilt Victoria Palace Theatre auditorium, longs to be by Hamilton’s side."

"Raw, and rule breaking: it didn’t even end with a song."

Tim Bano, The Stage


"Directorially, it doesn’t move heaven and earth. Under Thomas Kail, ensemble members still twirl tables and chairs over their heads, like in many musicals. Apart from one final scene, which sees actors perform complex choreography to an absence of music, this is fairly conventional execution – but of an extraordinary form."

"David Korins’ set, too, is a big, empty playspace that exposes, and so intensifies, Miranda’s words. It’s like Christine Jones’ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child set, a great hollow hall of a space, but this is more shipshape – timber balconies, clusters of rope."

"George Washington comes on to an epic bass drop and a gangster rap, with Obioma Ugoala bringing commensurate authority as the father of the founding fathers. And King George III – the show’s comic core, played to arch perfection by Michael Jibson – is a grotesque, pale creature, effete and on the verge of tears, singing letters to America that are by turns needy and abusive. These little knowing concoctions and contrasts make the educational aspects of Hamilton palatable and only serve to intensify its more serious themes."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail


"The rat-a-tat-tat of the rap lyrics makes romantic interludes a little robotic but a touching moment does come when Hamilton and Eliza are reconciled after a family bereavement. I was expecting the tragic potential of Hamilton's extraordinary life story to be milked for more pathos. "

"Apart from the lyrics, Hamilton is no revolution. But if you wait until the promotional frenzy has abated and if you lower your expectations to those for a normal West End show, you should enjoy it well enough."

"Apart from the lyrics, Hamilton is no revolution. But if you wait until the promotional frenzy has abated and if you lower your expectations to those for a normal West End show, you should enjoy it well enough."

Hamilton is booking at the Victoria Palace Theatre until July 2018.

Watch our video with the Schuyler Sisters here

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Final performance: 02 March 2024