Fate would have it that a mere few hours after watching Hamilton in the West End, I would be jumping onto a flight to the Land of the Free and Home of The Brave. At times I have to pinch myself that I am just an extraordinarily lucky and therefore, forever humble human being.
I had been waiting a long time for the smash-hit musical to cross over to these shores. To be fair to my dearest wife she stayed late one Monday evening when the first public tickets went on sale at the start of 2017 but was unable to secure any tickets. I settled that I would just have to be patient and wait to see the little known story of one of the relatively obscure founding fathers of the United States of America. Good things come to those who wait, or so I am regularly informed. Therefore Michelle had been subscribing to the official website and was made aware of when the next batch of tickets went on sale towards the end of last year. When you book tickets in December 2017 (21st actually if you want me to be precise) for an evening performance over seven months away, you kind of forget about your plans and only appreciate the upcoming event when you flip the calendar over from June to July and the weekend countdown is down to three.
Great Expectations – it is easy in life to set extremely high expectations and then be left disappointed. Keeping our expectations in check is probably one of the many challenges of modern life. Therefore I decided to avoid the hype, even though I recall an episode edition of BBC London News which felt more like an overblown commercial for the West End production. I had been looking forward to the show for many years perhaps fueled most by the Broadway episode of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. (Did I tell you that I share my birth town with The Late Late Late Show host?) Even so, I knew none of the main songs and only knew the story loosely based on my obsession with The American Revolution. Most recently when reading the fantastic book – The Men Who Lost America but unlike the numerous victor stories, this was from the perspective of the “defeated” Super Power.
A slight tangent if I may. I follow the great Dan Snow on Twitter and he regularly provides insights into history with his On This Day tweet. Other Twitter users then respond with memes, comments and the usual drivel. This one was particularly close to my heart.
Travelling into London for purely social reasons, particularly on the weekend has been rare for us. We were trying to recall our last trip as we waited for the taxi to arrive around 2:30 pm. It is always good to have an online archive I can check with most of my movements as well as thoughts and feelings (plus occasionally GPS logged locations). It was in fact just over five months ago when we went to see the Strictly Tour at Wembley Arena.
We had an early evening meal booked near Chelsea before rushing back to Victoria station to join the queues entering the renovated theatre. Such a shame the area around the theatre and station are all being repaired/rebuilt. However, before joining the queue there was time for an obligatory photograph outside the entrance (but without the infamous Hamilton pose)
While we waited for our entrance to the stalls open, it was time for some retail therapy. It has become obligatory for me to purchase some merchandise (which as usual I will properly never wear but hold for posterity until the end of time). I opted for the classic t-shirt, with gold star Hamilton logo on black. Our seats were ten rows from the front, slightly to the left. We had an excellent view of the stage. As soon as the actors appeared and began the opening number I knew I was in for an experience I would not forget. Just pure genius to combine the founding story of your nation with a contemporary musical soundtrack based on rap and hip-hop. Add to that a diverse multicultural cast with people of colour playing prominent roles. What I was surprised by was the ensemble cast performance in the background. There was plenty going on the stage, difficult to keep an eye on everything. I would also like to give a shoutout to the amazing dancers, who not only flew around the stage but also provided excellent backing vocals throughout.
I cannot recall being surrounded by so many Americans in the audience. There was cheering every time Great Britain was put down and particularly when the ‘mad’ monarch King George III appeared for his solo number (was it three or four times). There is nothing I can fault of this production, the plot is historically accurate and fast pace focusing on all the pivotal moments over almost thirty years. It does help if you know your history but it is not a pre-requisite to be well entertained.
As the cast took in the applause at the final curtain – I only had one thought – I need to come and watch this again before it leaves the West End forever. For sure I am not going to waste my shot.