I went to see Hamilton in Manchester last night, and it met – no, it exceeded – every sky-high expectation 

Great British Life: Charles Simmons as George WashingtonCharles Simmons as George Washington (Image: Danny Kaan)

Hamilton has been reviewed so many hundreds of times I am sure there’s nothing I can add to the cascades of words praising this extraordinary musical. My concern in fact is that I can’t find the words to express just how enveloping an experience Hamilton is. 

The first ever UK tour of Hamilton was announced last February, causing a thrill to ripple through musical theatre lovers across the UK, and the news it would commence that tour in Manchester set hearts racing and fingers dancing to the online ticket office immediately. Its popularity has already caused it to be extended into February next year, and if you’re worried it might all be just hype – don't, it’s a night out you won’t forget in a hurry. 

Great British Life: Shaq Taylor as Alexander HamiltonShaq Taylor as Alexander Hamilton (Image: Danny Kaan)

Before the show even started there was an almost palpable buzz running through the audience, which let out whoops and cheers the moment the lights dimmed. Unlike the lights, the buzz didn't, the atmosphere remained pumped up and lively, supported by shouts of pleasure and cheering during songs and dance, when characters complete a particularly tricky or stirring rap, hit a note that reverberates or struts across the stage with a self-awareness and joy that resonated with the whole room. 

The set is simple, the costumes are lush, the precision of the staging is exceptional and the music is incredible, ranging from complex, rapid-pace rap to soul-shivering ballads, hip-hop and stylish musical theatre-style storytelling. Word battles thrill, the combined voices of the cast pulse through the auditorium and there are moments of stillness that move you to tears. From the opening fast-paced account of Hamilton’s early life to the closing lament the cast holds the audience, oh so willingly, in their collective hand. 

Great British Life: Maya Britto, Aisha Jawando and Gabriela Benedetti as the Schuyler sistersMaya Britto, Aisha Jawando and Gabriela Benedetti as the Schuyler sisters (Image: Danny Kaan)

The whole cast is incredible. It’s hard to believe this is a touring show; they must have stripped the West End dry. Shaq Taylor, as Hamilton, is sheer brilliance. Sam Oladeinde, as Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s eventual nemesis, is mind-blowingly good. He studied law at Cambridge, but thank goodness stepped on to his true path, bringing that voice to those songs, and earning the gratitude of audiences silenced by, and cheering, his work. 

We cannot ignore the brilliance of KM Drew Boateng, as Madison, and Billy Nevers, as the Marquis de Lafayette, and later as Thomas Jefferson. When that quartet gets going it’s just irresistible. Nevers is superb in both his roles, striding and strutting and owning the stage first as (heavily accented) Frenchman Lafayette, and next as arrogant, self-assured Jefferson. And oh my, Maya Britto, as Eliza Hamilton – wow. Just wow. The occasional appearances of King George III are a highlight of the show, played to perfection by Daniel Boys, in resplendent camp style. 

Great British Life: Shaq Taylor as Hamilton, and companyShaq Taylor as Hamilton, and company (Image: Danny Kaan)

It's perhaps an odd choice for a musical, the story of one of America’s Founding Fathers, and one few have ever heard of at that. His portrait may be on the $20 bill, but he’s certainly been overlooked for quite some time. The story, however, incorporates the history of the greatest upheaval and changes of what is now one of the world’s most powerful nations. With George Washington (first President of the United States), Thomas Jefferson (3rd President), the Marquis de Lafayette (a key figure in both the American and French Revolutions), James Madison (4th President) and Hamilton himself in the room, the tale doesn’t lack power.  

This is a show that really has to be seen, on stage, live. If you’ve never heard of it – see it. If you’ve seen it on Disney+, that doesn’t hold a candle to the live show, so book it, and if you’ve seen it before – see it again. I plan to. 

Hamilton plays at The Palace Theatre Manchester until February 24 2024.