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What is Hamilton?

5th February 2018

What is Hamilton? Your guide to the new musical taking the West End by storm.

Hamilton opened in New York in 2015 to critical acclaim. The show is a hip hop musical which tells the story of the American founding father Alexander Hamilton. Not only has the musical won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it was also nominated for a record breaking 16 Tony Awards, winning 11.

Hamilton was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, he wrote the lyrics, music, and the book, and even appeared as Alexander Hamilton when the show first opened on Broadway. Miranda was inspired to write the musical after reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. After discovering that the only time Hamilton’s story had been presented on stage was as a play in 1917, he began a project which he titled The Hamilton Mixtape. In May 2009 he performed the first song from his project at the White House, this would later become the opening number of the musical.

Interest in the project grew and in 2013 a workshop production of the show was performed. After this, in 2015 the musical premiered off-Broadway before being transferred to Broadway in July. Cameron Mackintosh saw the show in America has been keen to bring it to the West End ever since.

In 2017, Mackintosh rebuilt the Victoria Palace Theatre in London to accommodate Hamilton in London’s West End. Controversially, extended building works delayed the opening night.

The musical is true to most of the major events of Hamilton’s life but some parts are heightened and fictonalised. The play incorporates a range of musical styles including hip hop, rhythm and blues, pop and soul.

Alexander Hamilton’s ambition drove him from an outsider’s existence in the Caribbean to becoming an American war hero and George Washington’s right hand man. The story of his life is told in rough chronological order, right from his early childhood through to meeting Washington, his marriage, his post-war legal career in New York, his election campaign and finally his death.

Hamilton has captured the imaginations of new, and young, audiences. Despite being an old story, the musical’s exciting contemporary music pushes the boundaries of traditional musical theatre and shows how spoken word, rap and narrative can merge together to create an auditory spectacle.