Hamilton Review: A Theatrical Fusion of History and Hip-Hop

Hamilton, the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, has redefined the landscape of musical theatre with its innovative blend of historical narrative and contemporary music.

Jason Arrow as Alexander Hamilton in the Australian Production. Photo Daniel Boud (1)
Daniel Boud

Forget about dusty textbooks and stuffy museums, this groundbreaking production offers a fresh perspective on the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s most influential founding fathers, through the lens of hip-hop and R&B.

The critically acclaimed Broadway musical has received 11 Tony awards, seven Olivier Swards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. The musical is so highly anticipated that pre-sales started as early as November last year for its Singapore’s show in April.

From the outset, the stage design captivates audiences with its inventive approach, providing a dynamic backdrop that enhances the storytelling.

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Photo credit: Hamilton International Tour

A standout moment occurs when Angelica (played by Akina Edmonds) narrates the events leading up to Hamilton’s (played by Jason Arrow) marriage to Eliza (played by Rachelle Ann Go), with the staging effectively conveying the character’s memories and emotions in a visually compelling manner.

The cast delivers stellar performances, showcasing exceptional talent in both singing and acting. Each member brings depth and authenticity to their roles, breathing life into these historical figures and making them relatable to contemporary audiences. Their collective energy and commitment to their characters create a compelling and immersive theatrical experience.

The musical score, composed by Miranda, is a masterpiece in its own right.

Photo credit: Hamilton International Tour

Songs like “My Shot”, “Helpless”, and “The Room Where It Happens” are not only musically captivating but also lyrically rich, offering profound insights into the characters’ motivations and the broader themes of the story. The fusion of hip-hop rhythms with traditional musical theater elements results in a soundtrack that is both innovative and accessible, appealing to a wide range of musical tastes.

A prime example of this unique blend can be found in the two cabinet battles featured in the musical, which are memorable for me.

Thomas Jefferson (played by David Park) and Alexander Hamilton engage in rap battles as a means to debate and discuss key political issues of the time, transforming dry explanations about policies into dynamic and engaging performances.

The rapid-fire lyrics and rhythmic beats inject energy and excitement into the discussions, making complex historical debates accessible and entertaining for audiences.

These rap battles not only showcase the characters’ wit and intelligence but also highlight the innovative ways in which Hamilton uses music to bring history to life.

By blending hip-hop with traditional musical theatre, the show turns what could be a dull history lesson into a thrilling theatrical experience that resonates with audiences of all ages. It’s no wonder Miranda described the production as “a story about America then, told by America now”.

Company - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2022 (1)
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Hamilton also delves into deeper emotional territory, exploring themes of love, ambition, and legacy with sensitivity and nuance. Moments of genuine emotion punctuate the narrative, providing poignant contrasts to the show’s more energetic and upbeat sequences.

For instance, the song “Burn” showcases Eliza Hamilton’s heart-wrenching reaction to her husband Alexander’s public scandal and betrayal. Through Rachelle Ann Go’s powerful vocals and raw emotion, the audience witnesses the pain and devastation of a woman scorned, adding a layer of complexity to her character and their relationship.

Similarly, the song “It’s Quiet Uptown” offers a sombre reflection on grief and forgiveness in the aftermath of unimaginable loss. As Alexander and Eliza grapple with the death of their son, the music and lyrics convey a profound sense of sorrow and healing, reminding audiences of the fragility of life and the enduring power of love.

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Photo credit: Daniel Boud

In conclusion, Hamilton is a theatrical tour de force that transcends genres and expectations. Its unique blend of history, music, and storytelling has captivated audiences around the world, making it a cultural phenomenon.

Whether you’re a history buff, a musical theatre aficionado, or someone looking for a fresh and engaging entertainment experience, Hamilton offers something for everyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness this extraordinary production – it’s a theatrical event that truly lives up to the hype!

Hamilton runs from now till 2 June 2024 at the Sands Theatre. Book your tickets on Klook.