Lin-Manuel Miranda: ‘Hamilton’in London
Lin-Manuel Mirandais the American lyricist-performer-megastar.
Hamilton, the musical he created and starred in, began doing well off Broadway in 2015. He wished it might play in London one day. The show was a telling of the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, a bureaucrat in the second half of the 18th century and one of the founding fathers of the United States.
“Helen Mirren was one of the first people to see Hamilton,” recalls the 37-year-old Miranda. “She saw it very early and I said, ‘If we’re lucky enough to go to London, are they going to be bothered by King George?’ And she said, ‘Nahhh! We love it when you make fun of someone!’”
Miranda cracks up. “So I’m not worried,” he goes on. “I’m excited.”
Hamilton is a hip-hop artist. He’s a guy who writes about his struggle so well he transcends it
Two years on, Hamilton is most definitely coming. Previews at the Victoria Palace theatre in London began on Wednesday, with the main run starting on 21 December. And the question now is not will British audiences be interested in a hip-hop reimagining of the birth of modern America? But, rather, is there any possible way that this cultural behemoth can live up to the hype?
To start with the silverware: Hamilton has, to date, won 11 Tony awards, a Grammy for best musical theatre album and the 2016 Pulitzer prize for drama for Miranda’s writing; he has also been given a MacArthur “genius grant”. Somehow more telling, though, are the breathless testimonies from those who have seen the show. “I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show,” wrote Ben Brantley in the New York Times. “But Hamilton… might just about be worth it.” Michelle Obama described it as “the best piece of art in any form I have ever seen in my life”.
Miranda, meanwhile, is personally most gratified by Hamilton’s reach in other ways. He always wanted a multicultural cast and he is thrilled no one blinks an eye that the old and middle-aged white guys who created America are played by young black and Latino performers. He is also beyond pleased at the affirmation he has received from his musical heroes: last year, the Hamilton Mixtapewas released and the contributors included Busta Rhymes, Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah and Usher.
Hamilton is already a hit in London; the tickets were sold out almost instantly for the first run until June next year, though there is a daily lottery for £10 seats.