The Vroom Where It Happened?
24 August 2018
It’s May. I am sitting at my dining room table in central London with a well-highlighted copy of Frank Worrall’s biography of Hamilton bent open, printed copies of Lin Manuel Miranda’s songs strewn about and my laptop is playing the YouTube video from 2007 MTV awards where Lewis Hamilton met Nicole Scherzinger for the very first time. There is something fascinating in this day and age that celebrities can have virtually all aspects of their lives captured on camera. Where Lin Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow (Alexander Hamilton’s biographer) had written evidence and imagination, writing a musical about Lewis Hamilton has more source material than one person could ever hope to read all of.
Still, I’d given it a pretty good shot.
One of the hardest things about writing about Lewis Hamilton is that he is ultimately quite a nice successful guy. And that doesn’t make great musical theatre. We want the down on their luck (Les Miserables), orphaned (Oliver), unlikely hero (Wicked). Or we want the conniving (Sweeney Todd), gambling (Guys & Dolls), gang members (West Side Story). We never come across the nice boy from a Catholic family who worked really hard and got everything he wanted. It just doesn’t make for a good plot. We worked really hard on trying to find the highs and the lows in Hamilton’s story while still matching his arch to that of Alexander Hamilton’s portrayal in Miranda’s musical.
In the very first couple of sentences the actors tell the audiences that ‘We love Hamilton. Love it’. And it’s true we do. We love the blending together of so many different genres of music, something we were passionate to recreate. We love the opening up of roles to diverse performers and our own cast is totally glorious. We love the witty use of rap to tell narratives that may seem unsuitable for that format. And we love the King. He’s potentially one of the best comedy characters ever written for a musical. So all this fed in to our own version - the King became McLaren boss Ron Dennis, singing of the heartbreak that Hamilton’s departure from his team causes. The Ten Duel Commandments become the F1 Commandments with a guide on how branding is vital in the world of racing. David’s music covers everything from 1920’s style flapper tributes to Biggie Smalls nods. Bizet’s Carmen to Eminem. All in 60 minutes.
Finding the right mix of honesty, comedy and parody was tough but I think we’ve found a fine line in the middle. Watching the cast bring it to life has been great and the book and music and lyrics developed in the room so far beyond the original version that if you were to read the day one rehearsal version you wouldn’t recognise it. But that’s part of the fun: it has really come to life. And I hope when you watch it, you’ll find it as fully alive as I do.