Taking over a starring role created by someone else is always an unenviable task — when it’s in the most talked-about show to hit the West End in years, even more so.
But Londoner Jamael Westman triumphed last night as he took on the title role in Hamilton. His superlative performance will catapult him to fame, and he will surely collect a shelf-full of awards in the coming months.
Westman, 25, from Brixton, graduated from Rada last year and lists only two stage roles in his programme notes — although, like most actors in the UK, he has had a minor role in Casualty.
He went through a four-stage casting process, which included performing in front of Hamilton’s writer Lin-Manuel Miranda — who originally played the lead role on Broadway.
It helps in an energetic, all-singing, all-dancing show that the 6ft 4in actor likes to keep fit — he loves football and is a qualified coach, and has tweeted about having kickabouts with colleagues during rehearsals.
The audience at the first preview jumped to their feet to acclaim Westman and the rest of the 21-strong cast as the last note faded. It went without a hitch. Miranda tweeted: “That. Was. Insane.”
Westman’s mother Susan agreed. She said: “He was phenomenal and wonderful. I am so proud — it was terrific.”
Alexander Hamilton, a poor immigrant of Caribbean-Scottish descent, rose to become one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and George Washington’s right-hand man.
This production surpasses the Broadway one, an American in the audience said, while another declared “that was worth every penny” — and he had paid nearly £200 for his ticket.