So who was Alexander Hamilton?
“Presidential candidate. Something to do with Aaron Burr?” offered Jenny Warner, 57, who works in publishing.
“I know he was involved in the revolution and fighting for independence from the U.K., but that’s all I know,” said Sachin Pai, 40, an IT consultant. “I actually don’t know much about the musical itself, though obviously there’s been a buzz about the play, and I wanted to go along and see.”
Others had done more research.
“He’s the man on the $10 note,” said Grace Ge, 25, a financial services consultant from China.
“He was one of the founding fathers of the U.S.,” said Alex Sillitoe, 30, a design-firm art director from Anglesey, Wales. “He was born in difficult circumstances and kind of against all odds made his way to the U.S. and become involved with the men who turned out to be the other founding fathers, including Washington, and was instrumental in kicking the Brits — those damn Brits — out of the country.”
Mr. Sillitoe, who was seeing the musical for the first time, said he believed it would appeal to a British audience. “It’s that great underdog story,” he said. “And it’s obviously real.”
Katrina Boyd, a 39-year-old lawyer, said, “I confess I did have to read up about him. That’s how much we don’t know about him here. It’s such an important story for the States, but I do think it does require a bit of knowledge and a bit of understanding.”
“This guy, he worked his socks off,” she added. “And the recurring theme is that you write like you are running out of time, and that’s what this guy did.”
Ramin Sabi, 25, a theater producer, had seen the show in New York, he said, and loved it. Would others in Britain feel the same? “I think it’s a relatively universal story,” he said. “It’s no more complicated than ‘Les Miz’ and if anything, ‘Hamilton’ explains more of its context.”
Ajay Sharma, 31, an IT worker from London was able to identify Hamilton as “basically one of the founding fathers.”
Did he think the musical would appeal to a British audience? “It’s not like I have a huge background knowledge of American history, but I think it will translate just based on the music and the power of the performances,” he said. “If nothing else, people will learn stuff.”
Of course, this tale of American revolutionaries isn’t just about the struggles of the rebels in the British colonies. Michael Jibson’s prancing, comedic portrayal of a spurned King George III had the potential to alienate or offend a British audience that may be accustomed to its royals being treated with a tad more reverence. Mr. Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” told the London newspaper The Evening Standard this week that he was “excited to see” how the characterization played out here.
Barry Humphrey, a 50-year-old IT consultant from Buckinghamshire, said that while he was “not so much” a royalist, “this king is great.”
“It is slightly insulting that they portrayed the king of England as a buffoon,” he said. “But never mind: He was a lovable buffoon.”
Mr. Sabi, the theater producer, put it more bluntly: “Nobody will care. People don’t have the reverence for the monarchy that the Americans believe the British do.”
Wednesday’s preview performance had not escaped all controversy: It had been delayed by two weeks after a multimillion-dollar renovation of the theater ran late, meaning that thousands of tickets had to be reissued for other dates and resulting in an eruption of unhappiness on social media. (The official opening night is now set for Dec. 21.)
While controls were introduced in London to prevent the sort of ticket scalping that sent Broadway prices into the thousands, the London run was still expected to perform rather well. “Hamilton” is also raking in money in Chicago and Los Angeles, and there has been talk of adding productions in Asia and Australia.
In the audience on Wednesday night were some Americans feeling lucky to be able to see the musical at last.
Lena Levey, 15 and studying in London, said she “begged my mom to get tickets the second they came out. I really like American history and that is what sparked my interest in this.” The style of music, she said, “is universal.”
Her mother, Annette Levey, was grateful to Mr. Miranda, who based the show on Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton.”
“I think what Lin-Manuel Miranda has done for U.S. history what J.K. Rowling did for literacy with ‘Harry Potter.’ She ignited a whole generation of readers and this show has awakened an interest in U.S. history for kids.”