In March, The Boswells School students were invited to watch the musical phenomenon Hamilton as part of an only school showing, which included a chance to have a ‘QandA’ with the cast afterwards. I know many students, me included, were so grateful to have had this opportunity and want other schools to experience how important these performances are to pupils.

Through the repercussion of the pandemic, trips to theatre shows have been significantly reduced, with teachers struggling to justify the inflated price of the already expensive tickets. However, a week before the show, my Performing Arts class received a last minute email inviting us to join the yr7 panto cast to watch Hamilton and for such a cheap price!

Plus free ice-cream in the interval, a free programme and the chance to interview the cast!

I know my Sixth Form theatre group were no strangers to this musical production of Alexander Hamilton’s life; falling in love during the craze of Hamilton and countlessly rewatching the show on Disney+. So, this offer from the Hamilton production on the West End was immensely exciting and such a surprise for us, as huge fans, being able to see this popular musical live. It was a dream come true and such a reward after starting our first year of A-Levels, after two years of disrupted education.

Differing, most of the year sevens I interviewed had never even seen a theatre show let alone considered watching a ‘rap musical’ about one of the founding fathers of America. So, for them, this production may have sparked a love for theatre- to start a lifetime of performing experiences. Perhaps cause a dream-inspiring moment that would have never had happened if Hamilton had never offered the all school showing or the school even allowing theatre trips!

Of course I was immensely curious to see the comparison after being able to only watch it on Disney+ and listen to the soundtrack.

Disney+ in no way captured how fun and thrilling watching Hamilton in the theatre is. It is so much more spectacular than on tv- it was like a whole new show! For the cast there was no comparison to the original, each overwhelmingly talented performer reinvented the portrayal and singing of their characters.

To name a few, we had the excitement to watch Nuno Queimado as the alternate to Hamilton. Nuno Queimado was outstanding and fun as Alexander Hamilton. Both Hamilton and Jay Perry as Aaron Burr brought a whole new level of suave and charisma to their roles. Eliza’s (Sharon Rose’s) voice was astonishing and her adaptation of ‘Burn’ was so heart-wrenching; she showed true anger and heartbreak in her emotion.

Personally, I absolutely adored Ava Brennan who plays Anjelica Schuyler. I loved the sass and her voice was so powerful and beautiful ,to me, she was a perfect Anjelica.

Of course the whole cast was outstanding from the talented ensemble, pompous King George and sly James Reynolds. To Waylon Jacobs as stylish Thomas Jefferson and Emile Ruddock as the force that is James Mulligan!

Performing alongside Khalid Daley as Phillip Hamilton, a favourite moment for me was during ‘Take a break’. The song changed to have Hamilton physically dancing along to Phillip’s adorable rapping (visually proud for his son’s talent) and when Daley left he did excited giggles at his praise, the audience laughed and loved it’s cuteness.

The interval at a school showing it is an entirely different atmosphere. The crowd of the students immediately bursts into buzzing and bubbly talk about each scene and character. Dissimilar from a regular Hamilton audience who might just go buy ice-cream the excitement, the atmosphere of the musical continued into the bright faces of all the pupils, raving about the show and driven by the anticipation to hear the cast talk afterwards.

The best and unique experience about watching theatre live- with just a school audience- is the incredible energy and community reactions that you don’t get from a regular audience. Students in the audience are not afraid to react loudly to the events of the show. This encourages audience interaction from the cast as they bounce off the audience’s young and excitable energy: giving a whole new vibe to the performance as they include the audience into the moments.

The second half was the highlight. It was ‘Non-Stop !’ It felt like a different show! My favourite moment was the audience’s uproar to ‘Say no to this’ where Hamilton has an affair with the vocally stunning Maria Reynolds (Emilie Louise Israel) and the audience couldn’t stop gasping, it was hilarious and so thrilling to see the crowd become so emotive.

The life of this party was Trevor Dion Nicholas who played George Washington: especially during the rap cabinet battle. He even continued this contagious energy, off of the stage, when he led the ‘Question and Answer’ with cast.

The ‘Question and Answer’ with the Hamilton cast had them answer prepared questions submitted by pupils.

As Performing Arts students, the importance of school showings are not just getting the opportunity to watch this amazing musical but to help us with our own studies. We actually got to learn valuable career information during the ‘QandA’. One of the questions asked was based on ‘How did you get into the performing arts industry and Hamilton’ answered by both Nuno Queimado and Emile Ruddock. There was also a chance to hear answers from the back stage crew such as lighting and stage management.

This has inspired new pathways into the industry we may have never considered in our lessons, including ways without professional training at a Performing Arts University- which can cost thousands of pounds. To learn of performers who were just like us achieving their performing arts dream.

These interviews give the opportunity to learn insight into the performing arts interview by actors who have had the same experience we might go through, where otherwise we might just get an autograph form the cast outside the stage door. Not to mention, learning from watching them perform and use their characterisation to bring their own element to their famous characters.

When interviewing The Boswells School’s A-Level Drama student Evie Banfield she praised, “I loved Hamilton and it was great to hear that so many of the cast came from similar backgrounds to us because it shows that anyone can make it.”

For the years 7, this was not only a break from school to watch the musical Hamilton but a chance to inspire new performing artists! To have the best performing arts community experience from the elevated joy of the student audience and get the opportunity to hear inspiring theatre stories from Trevor Dion Nicholas and many others.

School showings give the cast a chance to have fun and let loose with the unique energy of the student audience that will give audible feedback of the performance. It is great practice and perhaps even a chance to try new directions.

The importance of theatre performances with and for a school audience can be summarised that theatre trips are firstly a reward and give pupils a break from the stress of education, but can also help promote careers in the arts and inspire future performing artists. They educate, encourage media promotion of the production and are a fun experience for the cast.

More productions should offer schools theatre trips and schools should be more open to allowing theatre days for students!