Review: Hamilton stuns Manchester at the Palace Theatre

Yeah... it's pretty good

By Ben Arnold | 22 November 2023

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(Credit: Danny Kaan)

Almost a full five years since he first appeared in the West End, Alexander Hamilton, at one time one of the less well recalled founding fathers of the United States, has finally made his way to Manchester. “What’d I miss?”, he might well ask, to adopt the words of Thomas Jefferson in the opening song of act II. 

Well, plenty. Dozens and dozens of shows have managed to make it north a damn sight quicker than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s international awards trawler, and since 2020, the original show has been available for on-demand viewing on Disney+, where it’s been streamed millions upon millions (by now maybe billions?) of times.

In fact, it was streamed more times and seen by more people in its first week on release than the total number of people who’d seen it live on Broadway in five years (around 2.7 million households, a staggering number).

(Credit: Danny Kaan)

So it begs the question; has anyone who wants to see Hamilton not already seen it? Is it still a draw? 

Judging by the evidence seen at press night at The Palace, the answer is a definitive yes. And perhaps it’s all the better for some of that familiarity.

With only a couple of performers in the cast having appeared in the West End production, this first UK tour of the show feels searingly fresh, the audience schooled and knowledgeable, keen to see the embellishments made and the new players filling the roles of Hamilton, Eliza, Aaron Burr, crowd-pleasers Lafayette and King George, and the stately George Washington.

Shaq Taylor as Hamilton is faultless, endlessly charismatic, as is Sam Oladeinde as the ambitious but ultimately tortured Burr (one of the few original cast members from the West End production), driven to distraction by his own jealousy.

Aisha Jawando, as Angelica Schuyler, has a voice that could – and might – halt traffic the full length and breadth of Oxford Road, while Billy Nevers trotting the stage in his knickerbockers nails the dual roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.

Daniel Boys’ pantomime villain King George is also a brilliantly pitched foil to the some of the overly reverent moments.

Some sore thumb lines remain a bit heavy-handed – the saccharine ‘forgiveness’, when Eliza resigns to accept Hamilton’s transgressions, and ‘the orphanage’, when Eliza’s legacy is quickly summarised in the final few minutes – elicit a wince, but these are entirely liveable with.

This was a world class performance of what is unquestionably one of the era-defining musicals of our time; vital, vigorous and rivetingly watchable. See it as soon as you can.