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Thursday 21 December 2017

Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre | Review

Victoria Palace Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 21st December 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

It's worth the hype.

Like many other musical theatre nerds, I jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon just over two years ago and haven't stepped off since. Swept up in the unique style of the show and the inclusivity of it, I fell in love and couldn't wait until I would finally see Lin Manuel Miranda's musical about the rise and fall of the USA's first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton.

During the past few months, while the show was being primped and preened for its arrival at the newly renovated Victoria Palace theatre, it has been receiving more press and excitement than Prince Harry's engagement! Even as a huge fan and supporter of the show, I was getting to the point where I thought there was no way it'd be worth it. Then I saw it...

Die-hard Hamilton fans are probably expecting everything to sound identical to Leslie Odom Jr.'s Burr, Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton or Philippa Soo's Eliza and we can't help but compare to what we're used to from the OBC recording but thanks to the power and brilliance of the London cast, all these comparisons fade away. The entire company pump in soul, heart and skill to the glorious narrative created by Miranda, musical supervisor Alex Lacamoire and director, Thomas Kail.

Giles Terera is charismatic and sharp as Aaron Burr, bouncing brilliantly off of the suave, likeable Jamael Westman as the titular, Alexander Hamilton. The two are perfect as the historical frenemies as Burr begins to resent Hamilton for rising in the ranks of office. Giles has some of the most iconic moments of the show with some truly show-stopping vocal sections, especially in the epic 'Wait For It' and jazzy, 'The Room Where It Happens'. Jamael tackles the huge role with skill and ease, showing his brash side in big rap numbers, as well as his more emotional, Shakespearean side towards the end in his final monologue and the heart-wrenching 'It's Quiet Uptown'.

Whilst these two talented men lead the cast, there is not a weak link anywhere. Powerhouse Rachel John is sassy and strong as the heartbroken Angelica; Rachelle Ann Go manages to be innocent but powerful at the same time in her performance of Eliza who falls for, is betrayed by and eventually forgives the man she loves. Christine Allado as "and Peggy" is particularly humourous as she bounds on stage with a childlike quality in the opening and is contrastingly seductive as Maria Reynolds in act 2 when she belts out 'Say No To This' with ease and drama.

West End newbie, Tarinn Callender is suave as Hercules Mulligan and full of dry humour as James Madison. Jason Pennycooke is frantic, hilarious and all round brilliant as Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. His fast paced, faultless rap is perfectly balanced with his acting and smooth movement around the stage and he's certainly a stand out. Obioma Ugoala wows with his vocals as he belts 'One Last Time' and as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton, Cleve September is strong whilst maintaining his childlike quality. Michael Jibson as King George steals every scene he's in. When I say he's hilarious, I mean laugh out loud, unforgettable moments hilarious. Every movement is perfectly thought out and he milks each line with precision.

The ensemble are sharp and outstanding, with In The Heights alumni, Courtney-Mae Briggs capturing my attention throughout. The precise choreography is one of the ultimate parts of the show, it's sharp as sharp can be and mirrors the action to perfection. Like the music, each aspect of on stage drama is reflected by style. Hip-hop, operetta, lullaby's and more embelish the spirit of the moment.

I could continue to rave about this show but I fear that could turn into a full dissertation so here's where I'll end. Hamilton is truly groundbreaking, it challenges the status-quo, brings a freshness to  the West End and breaks conformity by casting people of colour and challenging racial tensions. The show embodies representation in every way and is a spectacle to behold.

Hamilton lives up to the hype and is unforgettable. It's cool, unique and diverse as it subverts the typical language of storytelling. Find a way to get a ticket and see this show!

photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Sunday 17 December 2023

Stranger Things: The First Shadow, Phoenix Theatre London | REVIEW

Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Phoenix Theatre 

As someone who ventured into the realm of Stranger Things: The First Shadow without much prior experience with the series, aside from watching a few episodes and a recap, I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly captivated by this spectacular supernatural spectacle. The Duffer Brothers, with Jack Thorne and Kate Trefry have crafted a story that effortlessly drew me into the mysterious world of Hawkins, Indiana, even as a newcomer to the Stranger Things universe.

From the very first applause inducing scenes, I found myself immersed in the gripping narrative that skilfully combines elements of suspense, nostalgia, and the supernatural. The show's ability to seamlessly introduce me to its characters and the intricacies of their relationships made it easy to connect with the story, and I was quickly invested in the fates of these intriguing personalities.

The prequel introduces both beloved characters and fresh faces, each receiving substantial development and individuality. The performances are exceptional, characterised by universally nuanced and emotionally charged portrayals. Louis McCartney, in his striking West End debut as Henry Creel, delivers a chilling performance that combines twisted actions with an alarming charm. McCartney's masterful physicality, full of spasms and contortions, adds an extra layer of intensity to the role- I can only imagine how much physio he'll need during the run! Isabella Pappas embodies Joyce with fierce brilliance, seamlessly incorporating Winona Ryder's iconic traits while infusing the character with her own spin. Pappas creates a captivating, headstrong persona that garners unwavering support. Alongside her, Oscar Lloyd portrays James Hopper Jr. with suave charisma, delivering witty one-liners and exuding an aura that captivates throughout.

The brilliance of this show lies in the meticulous attention and craftsmanship dedicated to shaping the intricate backstories of every character. Each member is endowed with distinct intentions and personality traits, allowing for intrigue at every turn. There isn't a single weak link to be discovered, but special recognition is deserved for the performances of Christopher Buckley as the endearing Bob Newby and Michael Jibson, who delivers haunting moments as the tormented Victor Creel. Max Harwood as Alan Munson, injects copious amounts of humour, energy, and vitality into the narrative, fashioning a persona that practically begs for its own enthralling spin-off storyline; whilst Patrick Vaill brings eerie menace to the stage as Dr Brenner.

In the hands of Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, the play unfolds like a blooming flower, or more aptly, the opening mouth of a demogorgon. It moves seamlessly between the whirlwind of action and the rich tapestry of each thoughtfully crafted scene. High-school hallways and bathrooms, the mundane backdrop of everyday life, transform into breathtaking alternate worlds in the blink of an eye, all thanks to the nimble touch of Miriam Buether's set design. Jon Clark's lighting is like a choreographed dance, shifting between mysterious shadows and warm sunlight, mirroring the transformative journey of the characters.

The story takes a deep dive into the shadows, embracing a genuinely dark undertone with jumps and eerie sounds reminiscent of horror films, all expertly blended into the production by Paul Arditti's exceptional sound design. Yet, within the darkness, there's a contrasting brightness—a nostalgic, retro Americana that permeates the air. Sprinkled with snippets of song, it adds layers of emotion and complexity to this multidimensional theatrical experience, making it a journey that feels both supernatural and believable.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow is a testament to the storytelling prowess of its creators. As someone unfamiliar with the series, I can confidently say that this instalment stands alone as a brilliant and engaging piece of theatre. It has ignited my curiosity about the series as a whole, and I am now eager to explore the it to uncover the mysteries that follow this captivating chapter. Whether you're a seasoned fan or a newcomer like myself, this show is a spectacle that you must see. Full of drama, amazing performances and genuine sincerity, it's a Creel-y Creel-y great piece of theatre.

Reviewed on Friday 15th December 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}