Will Hamilton be Successful in the West End?

It’s the musical of the year, hell, possibly the decade. Lin Manuel-Miranda’s eleven Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton, based on a 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, has been the talk of musical theatre fans and newbies for the past year. The deal is that if you’re not listening to this show, you’re out of touch. People are obsessed, tickets are sold out on Broadway, and any spares being sold on come at extortionate prices.
It’s a musical which, I must confess, I have only listened to once, and wasn’t too hooked on (I personally find it overrated), but I’ve been told it’s a show which grows on you, so maybe I’ll give it another try? However, despite my indifference towards it, it seems to have done wonders for people. Many I know who aren’t massive musical fans are positively fan-girling over it, quoting it, listening to it endlessly and humming it under their breath. The producers of the Broadway show have also pledged to give 20,000 state-school children subsidised tickets to see the show and also created a study-guide to help teach the history the show is based upon, which cannot be argued against – more Theatre in Education? Yes please.

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Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2016 Tony Awards

So, when it was announced that Cameron Mackintosh would be bringing the production to the Victoria Palace theatre in late 2017, it made me wonder whether Hamilton will have the same response as it has had in New York.
Firstly, I know that tickets are going to sell out in a heartbeat. I guarantee that the first year will be completely sold by the time sales start in November of this year. This is due to not only the critics, but the hard core UK fans, and the European tourists who can make their way to London. But I’m not sure Hamilton will have quite the longevity that the venue’s predecessor, Billy Elliot, had.
The show is subtitled “An American Musical”, so we know the subject matter is pretty far from us, it’s not something we know much about or can identify with. The British are also painted as the bad guys in the musical, which isn’t the sort of thing we really fancy watching, in all honesty, no matter how true it is.

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Though many members of the #Hamilfandom are welcoming of the new musical sound Hamilton brings (a mixture of rap, hip-hop, and gospel), this genre doesn’t appear to sell well in the West End. For example, Miranda’s first show, In the Heights, which is currently playing at the Kings Cross Theatre, is lacking in audiences, often only half-full. Cast members who collected its Olivier award for best choreography reminded audiences of where they were “in case they forgot”, and it’s been rumoured the show will be closing in October, with many cast members having already announced their next jobs. Is the lack of audiences unfortunately due to its less prominent location? Or is it because British audiences prefer something more operatic on their stages? Time will tell.
One of my largest concerns with Hamilton coming to London is what the ticket prices will be. In my opinion, tickets for West End shows are already far too pricey, so how will they fare for such a highly-anticipated show coming from Broadway? Estimations are that the lowest will be aroun £30, with the most premium seats being (as usual) near £100. Is this too much? What would you pay?
So, they’re my qualms about Hamilton coming to the West End. I may be proved completely wrong! What do you think? Let me know below!

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7 thoughts

  1. I’m a huge musical theatre fan, I live in Somerset and travel up to London frequently to see various shows, some which I love, and some that just don’t do it for me! My 18 year old daughter got me listening to Hamilton, and like you did not enjoy, the first couple of times listening to it. I must say I never ever could see myself liking any sort of hop hop, but now totally adore this soundtrack, it is most definitely a grower, and I find the storyline fascinating, and really can’t wait to see it, and what looks like some wonderful choreography. On the back of that, really now want to go and see In The Heights, and must say, the location of it may well put people off. Can imagine there will be a lot of hype around Hamilton when it arrives, but still think it is set for a long run.

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    1. That’s a completely fair assessment! I find it quite difficult to listen to soundtracks without knowing what’s going on, so for Hamilton I think I’m going to see it first, and then see how I feel (no doubt I will end up liking it!). Yes, definitely go and see In The Heights, I absolutely loved it, and it’s such a shame that it’s closing soon and hasn’t got as big as it should have.
      Thank you for taking your time to comment!

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  2. I think Hamilton will be a huge success in London and run for more than a few years. Hamilton reached that kind of hype and attention that no play or musical has reached since (maybe) the original Broadway production of Angels in America. It’s a Tony, Pulitzer and Grammy winner show, it’s much talked about in medias and social networks, it’s “revolutionary” and it’s essentially a crowd-pleaser. And probably they won’t miss the chance to cast a “name” for King George. Yes, I don’t think it will become the myth that it’s on Broadway, I think it will eventually close (in a decade?), while the Broadway production might go on and on. But it’s gonna be very successful, especially if celebrities will go to see it and report on Twitter (like it happened in New York since its first days at the Public)… you can’t buy that kind of publicity. And don’t forget that Americans will come to see it in London, because it would be cheaper that on Broadway (even with flight and hotel): it’s happened before.

    Cultural differences between UK and USA won’t be a big problem: people were saying that Book of Mormon was too American for a British audience, and yet here we go. Same for Avenue Q. Nobody likes to be reminded of national faults, but shows like Les Blancs (currently at the NT) prove that a play or a musical that deals with colonialism can be very successful. I don’t think In the Heights is a good pointer of the level of success Hamilton is going to have: In the Heights closed on Broadway five years ago and never became as famous as Hamilton. In the Heights’ true problem is that no one knows that they are there, King’s Cross Theatre is not in the West End and it’s not one of the famous Off-West End venues (Menier, Southwark Playhouse, Union Theatre…). And then, by the time In the Heights closes in October it will have been playing for a whole year, which is quite respectable for a venue like that.

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    1. Thank you for your insightful comment! I do completely agree with you about its longevity – a decade is quite long, but I don’t think it will have the same longevity Les Mis has had. Saying that, though, the face of musical theatre is changing so I could well be wrong. Your point about Book of Mormon/Avenue Q is spot on, I didn’t think about that!
      Overall, I do agree with your points, especially about In The Heights. It unfortunately hasn’t generated the online buzz Hamilton has had, which, as you say, no show can buy.
      I just thought I’d be a pessimistic voice in the sea of lovers of the show. I don’t hate the show, I’ll add, I just haven’t got into it yet, but I will be seeing it!

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  3. I have never listened to the soundtrack of Hamilton despite being a massive musical fan. I am a bit reluctant towards it hip-hop and rap genre because I never have found the appreciation towards hip-hop and rap. I have always found hip-hop and rap to not sound like music or never can pick up on words or anything. People have been telling me that I should at least give it a chance considering how big of a musical fan I am. I feel that if I decide to see Hamilton sometime in the future, I will not be 100% looking forward to seeing it. In a sense I can understand the hype due to the different genre of music, but I feel as if the hype is a little bit too much.

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    1. I’ve listened to the soundtrack a few times and I have found that it’s not something you can just listen to passively – you have to work quite hard to listen and get the nuances and repetitions and the clever wordings. This is why I’ve decided to wait until I see it in London (fingers crossed), as I find that watching the show as a whole makes things a whole lot easier to understand in contrast to just listening. I found this with In the Heights – I enjoyed it much more once I’d seen it. I think if you see it you should look forward to it a little, as it hasn’t won all of those Tony’s for nothing! I do, however, think people are hyping it up a little too much, as if they’d never heard of any other musical. It is fantastic and groundbreaking, but fans can be a little too extreme nowadays!!

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