Why ‘Hamilton’ Will Work In London

The Arts

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You might have noticed that a play written in a mix of hip hop and show tunes about an energetic writer of the US constitution and a British villain created a freakishly intense fever of ticket-buying in New York. Tickets are now on sale in London to an audience that’s less stand-and-applaud and a little more more ‘meh’ – so will ‘Hamilton’ work here?

Well, did you think a musical about an obscure American religious sect would run in London? ‘The Book of Mormon’ is still packing ’em in. I didn’t rate it much, but it’s clearly doing something right.

Or is it?

The show is being endlessly propped up by advertising, rumoured to be paid out of the deep, deep pockets of the Mormons themselves. Disney own and finance a whole raft of mediocre, blank-faced musicals that get shipped around the world, lurid sausages pouring from the fairytale mincing machine in Hollywood. A simple lesson has been learned; if you fund it, they will come. Bus sides and tube posters tout ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Lion King’ every week of the year, and the longer they stay the more they earn back for the companies behind them.

Which rather leaves sharp new UK plays with their limited budgets pushed to one side and out in the cold. ‘Hamilton’ is already sitting on such a pile of cash that it will stay on even if half the theatre has to be papered. Going to see it will become a mark of social currency. But another racially-charged show with a far more powerful message, ‘The Scotsboro Boys’, struggled to make its mark in the West End.

‘Hamilton’ marketing made a smart move – they released the soundtrack way in advance of the show’s opening. It’s not particularly catchy, but there are some nice riffs and it’s densely assembled with a lot to chew over, so – shrewdly done.

Meanwhile the press is already falling for the PT Barnum sell, penning articles on ‘How you can get tickets for Hamilton’. I don’t care much for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music (he added negligible songs to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and wrote the sugary ‘In The Heights’, which I left halfway through) but the true-life story is a rich and fascinating one – I just wish it had been done as a straight play.

7 comments on “Why ‘Hamilton’ Will Work In London”

  1. Brian Evans says:

    I’m sick of the West End now and won’t go any more. It is completely taken over by large budget corporate musicals.
    So much so, that I hope this flops-that will teach them not to manipulate people by pretending this is “must see” and you are lucky if you can get a ticket.

    I like plays-but how many do you now get in the West End?-apart from, of course, the unspeakable “The Mousetrap”

    Also, the prices are horrendous, and I totally refuse to pay a booking fee-yet another way of conning money out of people. I don’t have to pay a £5 handling fee to go through a super-market checkout, so I don’t expect to have to pay for the “privilege” of going to the theatre. They need me-I don’t need them!

    The only good thing about this new farrago of a production is that it will give people a chance to see the newly restored Frank Matcham designed Victoria Palace Theatre.

    Rant over.

  2. Peter Dixon says:

    Hamilton won’t work – who gives a fart?

    However ‘Young Frankenstein’ is being revived as a musical with an excellent UK cast. Starts at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal before heading to the West End. I’m gonna be there!!!!

  3. admin says:

    ‘Young Frankenstein’ has a great score – count me in.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Starat from the beginning. Hamilton is a USian show, written in the US about an important point in American history. The names are familiar to USians from their high school history classes. It appeals to the patriot and in this past year what would stimulate interest more than an appeal to patriotism? Once it was going well there were plans to send it abroad and obviously the feelers got response. Does Britain feel guilty about the way the colonies were treated? That’s the only reason I can think of for it going so well. It’s a costume piece – good deal.
    The Scotsboro Boys. Remind me about the reference? Serious social commentary? With the news the way it is do we need current commentary?
    Don’t like musicals? (Why not, by the way? But then I can go opera.) Then don’t go. It’s the only way to let “them” know how you feel. They paper the house? How long can any organisation do that without going bankrupt? The Mormons are financing the show? That’s a rumour, I think. What facts can be brought forward to support it? We don’t deal in unsupported rumours here.

  5. Joanna V. says:

    Pretty sure the Mormons have nothing to do with the musical. It was created by the guys who do the South Park TV show, which has liberally made fun of Mormonism as well as most other religions over the years. And the musical itself takes some pretty obvious jabs at their beliefs.

  6. admin says:

    The Mormons famously bought ad space in ‘The Book of Mormon’ programmes, Joanna.

  7. Joanna V. says:

    So the Mormons made a wise PR move, didn’t protest the show (which a lot of people were initially expecting) and instead took out ads in the programs to promote their religion. They made lemonade out of what could be lemons. They’re paying for actual advertising to keep the show going (it has been a huge hit in the US on its own – before Hamilton came along it was the hardest ticket to get on Broadway or on tour) sounds like just a conspiracy theory.

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