“Hamilton” opened on the West End Thursday night. If it should come as no surprise that London critics, as much as New York ones, give largely ecstatic reviews of the hip-hop musical about one of America’s Founding Fathers, what I was curious about is: How would they react as British subjects to the subject of the American revolution? And specifically, what would they feel about the comic caricature of King George III?
Below are relevant excerpts, and links to the full reviews.
…will disarm folk who think that a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers isn’t ideally placed to be a mega-hit on this side of the pond. –
…It may be unfair to the original but it’s a terrific joke that George III – hilariously played by Michael Jibson as a camp clump of twinkling malice in full royal regalia – sings of the political break-up in the jaunty tones of a 1960s Britpop number
Perhaps the most unlikely hit of the West End’s Hamilton is Michael Jibson as King George III – a hilarious caricature of the little man who lost Britain’s colonies. In the King’s brief interludes the music switches up from Notorious BIG to the Beatles – and the audience roars with laughter.
As the first-ever Secretary to the Treasury he established the banking and credit system required by the emerging federation of states. That aspect of the story has a topical edge given Brexit. Hamilton was also a firm believer in his nation’s sovereignty. Would he have been a Leaver or a Remainer in 21st century Britain? Hard to say.
Apart from Mr Westman [as Hamilton] the star of the show is Michael Jibson as a pleasingly puddingish, catty George III.
the funniest performances [is] Jibson’s English king….George III – played by Michael Jibson as a figure of ineffable absurdity – surveys the political infighting after Washington’s resignation with unholy relish. Crying: “Jesus Christ, this will be fun,” he jigs as if, under all the royal regalia, he were a closeted rocker.
Given the unprecedented hype, its distinctive form and the fact that the subject is so quintessentially American, the arrival of Hamilton on the U.K.’s theatrical shores had to raise the question: Would the hip-hop history of the Founding Fathers survive its trans-Atlantic crossing?
…There’s the common experience — as opposed to the “special relationship” — currently shared by citizens of the U.S. and U.K. regarding the fractures in each country’s racial harmony. With Brexit turning a divisive spotlight on so-called “E.U. migrants,” there’s every reason for this defiant homage to one of America’s hitherto unsung immigrant heroes to resonate in the U.K.
…most Brits could be forgiven for not knowing [Hamilton] at all.
The droll “You’ll Be Back” could almost have been plucked from a Beatles or Britpop B-side, which is appropriate given that it voices King George’s reluctant acceptance that his colony has escaped him, for now. It’s another great marriage of dramatic idea and musical style, having the figurehead of colonial oppression appear as comic relief. With Michael Jibson playing the king as a gnomish, creepily malign, barking toff whose servant-playthings aren’t doing as they’re told, the king will register very well to an audience with both a tradition of pantomime and a love-hate relationship with its royals.
And King George III – the show’s comic core, played to arch perfection by Michael Jibson – is a grotesque, pale creature, effete and on the verge of tears, singing letters to America that are by turns needy and abusive. These little knowing concoctions and contrasts make the educational aspects of Hamilton palatable and only serve to intensify its more serious themes.
Even if you miss particular references, you feel the gist on your pulse: there’s a continuum between then and now and it’s thrillingly compounded by the fact that America’s nemesis George III (a tour-de-force from Michael Jibson in the comic show-stopper of the night) once lived round the corner; he bought what became Buckingham Palace.
So, far from standing at one aloof remove from this foreign import, then, it’s as if a vast arc of history, spanning centuries, has come full circle here in the West End. Look what we managed to do after we left you, the show says, in playfulness not anger. The awed answer from our side can only be: like, wow. – Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
The interludes in which our very own George III (Michael Jibson) pops up to pass sneering comment are hilarious…
Does it feel quite so important in London? Inevitably it still feels like an American story. But we’re a nation hooked on American stories. And it is celebratory of multiculturalism and immigration, things our city knows very well. Plus in an age when some berks still write in angrily if a black person gets a minor role in a BBC costume drama, it is of tremendous significance that a group of relatively unknown BAME [a Britishism for “British. Black. Asian. Minority Ethnic”] actors are in a period show that is by a really very long way the best and cleverest thing on the London stage.
I could bore on about ‘Hamilton’ as a sociological phenomenon for days, and considered in those terms, there are faults to find, from male-centricity to US jingoism and more. But what’s great is that in the room where it happens you don’t think about any of that – Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out London
#Ham4Ham returns, but only in London: