Liam Rudden: Hype, hyperbole and Hamilton: An American Musical

Jamael Westman (Alexander Hamilton) with West End cast of Hamilton
Jamael Westman (Alexander Hamilton) with West End cast of Hamilton
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HYPE. If there’s one thing that puts me off going to see any production, be it musical or play, it’s hype. Once the hyperbole starts to get out of hand, that’s enough for me. I switch off.

Yes, as the superlatives flow and the reviews start to read as if they’ve been written by one of the cast’s mothers, you won’t get me through the door of whichever venue that show happens to be playing.

It a reaction learned from years of disappointment; decades of settling down to watch some bigged up show with a cast of well kent faces that has the theatre establishment so excited they can barely contain themselves... only to discover they were obviously watching a different production to the one I’d just witnessed.

Wicked is a prime example, two women screaming at each other for the best part of three hours, yet those who are fans seem to glory in that basic premise.

I’d heard so much about Wicked that, when I first saw it in Liverpool, I assumed I must have caught the company on a bad night.

Yes, the was no denying that the staging was spectacular and the effects more than a bit special, but the score itself left me cold. When it arrived in Edinburgh, I was talked into seeing it again. I went, hoping for a different experience.

Would I undergo a dramatic ‘Paul on the road to Damascus’ style conversion? No, they still screeched and screamed at each other for three hours.

There won’t be a third time. You couldn’t pay me enough to suffer that again.

It was because of similar episodes I avoided Billy Elliot for as long as possible. In the end it was Playhouse Marketing Manager and old pal Pam Aldred who finally convinced me to give it a go. It was in Edinburgh and I had no excuse not to see it - needless to say, I loved it.

Which brings me to the most hyped musical of the millennium so far, Hamilton.

They raved about it in America when it opened on Broadway and now it’s on London’s West End, the buzz is positively universal.

Everyone I know who has been lucky enough to get a ticket has come away awestruck, even the critics who, more or less to a man and woman, have scored it top marks.

This in mind, I decided to have a listen to the sound track to see what all the fuss is about and, well, now I know.

I don’t think a musical has captured my imagination and heart so much since I headed to London to see Les Miserables back in the day when it still had a running time of around three hours and 45 minutes.

The time just flew by and that production is still seared into my memory. I imagine and am hoping Hamilton will have much the same impact when I see it.

In the meantime, I’ll make do with the sound track, but if you get the opportunity to check it out at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre, where it is currently playing, I’d encourage you to do so, and do let me know what you think.

@LiamRudden