Hamilton, the critically acclaimed Broadway musical is making its Middle East debut at Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi from January 17 until February 4, 2024. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, HAMILTON has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre – a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics and education.
The global phenomenon has been captivating fans across the world since it burst to life in 2015 and has won an array of accolades including 11 Tony Awards®, seven Olivier Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.
We sat down with Michael Cassel, Producer of the international tour of Hamilton and discussed the show’s global journey and how it will connect with the audiences in Abu Dhabi.
Saira Malik (S.M.): Why did you choose to bring Hamilton to Abu Dhabi?
Michael Cassel (M.C.): We enjoyed an incredible season of The Lion King when we finished our international tour at the wonderful Etihad Arena so we couldn’t wait to come back. One thing we know about Abu Dhabi is that the audience there is incredibly discerning and particularly enjoy first class musicals so we are thrilled to be able to bring the global sensation that is Hamilton there.
(S.M.): How have you adapted the musical for the Abu Dhabi audience and how do you think they will connect with the fusion of hip hop and traditional music blending together in this powerful performance?
(M.C.): Audiences in Abu Dhabi will see the production exactly the same as it is presented on Broadway, or in London or indeed anywhere else in the world it has played. It was so important to us that we shared the incredible original vision that Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tommy Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire first created when they brought Hamilton to the stage, and we are thrilled to have been able to recreate that vision in Manila and, now, for audiences in Abu Dhabi.
(S.M.): Can you give us some insight on the musical production industry in terms of how it works and what it takes to make a successful production like Hamilton?
(M.C.): I don’t think there is a formula for success, but if there was a theme that does run through the productions that are successful is that incredible blend of captivating storytelling, astonishing talent and the unwavering commitment to delivering an unforgettable experience for audiences. A successful production will leave audiences spellbound and we have seen time and time again all over the world that Hamilton does that exceptionally well. Lin-Manuel Miranda expert craftsmanship in combining hip-hop, RnB, Broadway and contemporary music, along with the brilliant visual storytelling from Tommy and Andy has really come together to create a production the whole world has fallen in love with.
(S.M.): What did it entail to bring Hamilton to Abu Dhabi and what are some of the challenges?
(M.C.): Touring Hamilton around the world is an enormous logistical undertaking. It takes 16 shipping containers to move the scenery and props around the globe, even moving the costumes requires special conditions to protect the delicate fabrics. We also have a touring company of nearly 90 people who will come from all over the world to Abu Dhabi to bring Hamilton to life. We have an incredible production team who manage all these logistics alongside our partners on the ground in Abu Dhabi, and it is all worthwhile when we hear the reaction of the audience when they see it for the first time.
(S.M.): What do you believe is needed to stimulate musical productions in the region and what steps need to be taken to give it that boost?
(M.C.): I think the best way to stimulate musical production in the region is the regular presentation of first class, quality productions. This helps develop a culture and familiarity of attending quality musical theatre – allowing the audience to grow as well as support the development of local production, technical, marketing and support expertise.
(S.M.): What are your thoughts on how musical productions are adapting to a changing audience?
(M.C.): One of the most wonderful things we have seen as musicals have evolved over time is the diversity of faces we are seeing on stage, behind the scenes and in the writing room. The way Hamilton uses people of colour to tell the story of the creation of America makes the story especially poignant. We are seeing more and more people of diverse backgrounds involved in the industry and that is only going to serve to create richer stories as what we see on stage better reflects what we see around us.
(S.M.): What is the one message from the musical you hope will stay with the audience once they have watched the musical?
(M.C.): We have found wherever Hamilton has played all over the world, different countries take something unique to them away from it. But central to the story is Alexander Hamilton’s drive to create a better nation, his obsession with time and the legacy he will leave behind and, really, the central story of love – his love for his country and his love for his family. These are things that everyone can relate to.
(S.M.): Finally, why do you think people both young and old in the UAE should not miss out on seeing Hamilton here in Abu Dhabi?
(M.C.): Hamilton has such a wonderful universal appeal. Whether it is younger audiences who are attracted to the music, people interested in American politics, people interested in history, music theatre lovers, people who love an incredible story-there really is something for everyone in this show. One of the wonderful things about Hamilton is that it only becomes more relevant as time goes on, there are so many messages woven throughout the show that have a contemporary relevance that leaves you thinking about long after the curtain comes down.
Hamilton will make its debut in Abu Dhabi at Etihad Arena from January 14 until February 11, 2024. For tickets, visit www.etihadarena.ae