Home African Caribbean Hamilton – The Musical At Birmingham Hippodrome 25th June – 31st August 2024

Hamilton – The Musical At Birmingham Hippodrome 25th June – 31st August 2024

by Tony Kelly
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As a family we saw the absolutely fascinating musical  Hamilton in  January of this year at  the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. As an aficionado of musicals  and must add opera too, I rated it as one of the best  musicals that I have ever seen, it being clearly in my top three all-time list along with The Lion King (seen thrice)  and Les Misérables (seen twice).   

Being a  fortnightly writer for this CaribDirect online publication I along with my wife were given complimentary tickets  and attended the ‘Press Night and Drinks Reception’ on Friday 28th June  for the ten-week run which started  at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre earlier this week.  Thanks to Chris Sudworth  the creative director of the theatre situated in the heart of Birmingham who facilitated this  kind gesture along with a programme  to add to our burgeoning list of programmes saved over the years of supporting the performing arts across the world. 

Let me start by giving readers a synopsis of the Hamilton story.  The musical is inspired by Ron Chernow’s book  Alexander Hamilton.  He is one of America’s founding fathers, an immigrant from Nevis in the Caribbean who was born there in 1757 out of wedlock. His father abandoned him in 1765 and his mother died in 1768  so an as an orphan he relocated to  the Caribbean Island of St. Croix. Despite such a turbulent childhood with trials and tribulations that he had  to endure Hamilton arrived in the United States where he became heavily involved in politics and in a nutshell  was a prolific writer, activist, revolutionary and army officer at the forefront of wars and struggles to achieve American Independence. Without giving too much of the plot away it is a rag to riches story as he was appointed  in 1789  Secretary of the Treasury when George Washington was elected president of the United States. If one wants to know how Alexander Hamilton’s life and times unfolded then please Google his name. 

Apart from the Lion King which is truly representative of black talent on stage as it is set in Tanzania, Africa with a predominantly black cast having seen it in London, Birmingham and New York,  this is the second main stream theatre production that I have ever watched in England  with nearly the entire cast at the Birmingham Hippodrome being black actors/actresses. It gave me goosebumps as I saw so many people  like me on the stage which meant that I could relate to them and it truly resonated with me.  This is reminiscent of what I am accustomed to in Jamaica and on Broadway in New York. This dispelled the myth often heard in Britain that there is not enough black talent available  to choose from. Clearly these mainly young black people performed well at their auditions and got their roles based on their extraordinary talent. On reading  their resume/bio in the programme it is obvious  as the lyrics  in the  well-known University Singers of Jamaica  song  state  ‘If yuh looking fi talent see it yah’. 

Even the  huge cast in  the recent London  production  that we saw in January disappointingly had only at a rough estimate 4 black performers and that is cause for concern. Considering the story line as already highlighted, what a contrast here in multi-racial, multi-cultural and diverse Birmingham, the second city as this observation certainly put London to shame in that regard. It is of paramount importance that theatre goers need to see on stage a true representation of their ethnic identity and  the production team for Hamilton at Birmingham Hippodrome got it absolutely right. Must give them credit for their positive action. 

The high energy, brilliant/superb singing/rapping,  scenery, setting  and the out-of-this world choreography with every single dancer being in sync was incredibly impressive. In order to be familiar with the music before-hand I listened to it in January  and  never thought hip-hop and rap  would ever be genres  that I can relate to. I had serious reservations about whether this  would really  be as the British like to say ‘My cup of tea’ pardon the pun as not a tea drinker. I must be showing my age but please do no let that put you off seeing this fantastic production as one is hooked from the opening scene to the very end. Simply put the music is phenomenal. I even told some of my contacts in a joking fashion to ‘sell whatever pet’ that they own in order to see this  amazing show. I cannot praise it  enough and would see it again. 

It was very refreshing to hear  Ron Gilchrist the CEO at the Birmingham Hippodrome in his speech at the  drinks reception, inform the specially invited guests that plans are in place  to make sure youngsters who have NEVER been to the theatre, being offered the opportunity to see this wonderful production.  I had to shout out Hear! Hear! on hearing what is indeed a progressive  and forward-thinking approach. We spoke briefly after that and he declared that his wish in years to come would be to see a lead performer commanding the stage after being given the opportunity to witness something magical as a youngster at Birmingham Hippodrome. I wholeheartedly concur with that viewpoint. 

There are not enough superlatives to describe how one is captivated from the opening scene to the very end of the musical Hamilton. Truly amazing and the abundance of creative talent from the entire cast,  including the orchestra, staging, directing, lighting, props and  special effects make it an award-winning must-see show. I really never wanted it to  end and urge everyone to get tickets as the word will certainly spread and the tickets will get snapped up.  A five-star rating and  please put it on your bucket list. Trust me when I say that you will not be disappointed.  

Heartiest congratulations to all involved in this Hamilton production which is going to be on a UK and Ireland tour. 

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .


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1 comment

Jacqueline June 30, 2024 - 7:55 pm

An excellent read, Thank you Tony.


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