Get ready Hampton Roads for the triumphant return of Broadway’s National Tour of Hamilton to Chrysler Hall. It starts officially March 28 and runs through April 9th, with a staggering 16 performances.
Hamilton is a musical with a very unique concept, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the music, lyrics and a book. He combines hip hop, R&B, pop, soul and traditional style show tunes to tell the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton.
As Lin said in The Atlantic magazine, “Hamilton is about America then, told by America now.” He cast, non-white actors as the founding fathers and other prominent historical figures and they help to tell Hamilton’s story.
This incredible musical has won eight Drama Desk Awards, including outstanding musical. And then, at the 70th Tony Awards, Hamilton broke all the records by receiving 16 nominations and winning 11 awards, including Best Musical.
Yiorgo: There are three cast groups: the Philip Cast, the Angelica Cast and the Peggy Cast, in the North American Tour of Hamilton and with us today from the Philip Cast, is Pierre Jean Gonzalez, who stars as Alexander Hamilton. Welcome Pierre to the Hampton Roads Area. We will start with our first question. Why should people come and see Hamilton live since they can watch it on Disney+? What will they see, hear and experience live that they can’t get from the TV performance?
Pierre Jean Gonzalez: Thank you so much Yiorgo. I am so happy to be here. I first want to say that the Disney+ performance is an iconic company and cast who really created this show and really solidified it for the world. And it also allowed us, the performers who saw it, to fall in love with these characters.
What I think is very special about every company, every individual in a Hamilton company show, you are able to see this show through so many different artists’ eyes, interpretation of the characters and make them shine. That’s something that I really love about this show. I watch other Hamiltons, other companies and I am still in awe of other people’s choices and vocal renditions of songs. It’s one of those shows that you can watch over and over again and you will consistently find something new on stage. This show really allows the actors to have fun and bring themselves to the character. It also allows the audience, every time they see a new company or show to see something fresh and new. I think that is why Hamilton is doing so well right now and it is such a cool experience. It has a high demand in the world because of the story, music and the artists jumping into it are bringing their own authentic selves.
Y: For the very few not familiar with it can you tell us about the story without giving too much away?
PJG: Hamilton the play, follows the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of our founding fathers. It’s actually based on a novel, Chernow’s biography about Alexander Hamilton. What Lin-Manuel Miranda did is take this man’s life story, embellish it a bit and turn it into a kind of epic drama, soap opera, movie experience. It shows his journey of how he created the banks of America, his relationship with his wife, with George Washington and how his life ended essentially in a duel with Aaron Burr. We start off with that in the beginning of the play, so it’s not something we are trying to hide, plus it is a part of history. The story is told through hip-hop and R&B songs. It’s an epic, amazing, beautiful story and so much fun.
Y: You and all the other actors are portraying real and historical figures. How do you prepare, have you researched Hamilton’s story?
PJG: I started off reading Ron Shernoff’s biography, the same book that Lin read and based Hamilton on. My biggest thing was, I went to go see it, I studied and looked back into Lin-Manuel’s work as well. For myself as an actor, a researcher because as an actor, you are a researcher first I wanted to make sure for myself, I knew the whole story before I stepped into his shoes. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. I started off as a standby on the Philip Cast Tour and that meant I covered Hamilton, Burr and the King.
Y: Tell us about the audition process for Hamilton, getting to be in it and finally getting the lead.
PJG: The audition process was a bit crazy and intense. Looking back at it now, they were really trying to see if I was capable and ready. I actually went a total of seven times. The first one was the initial open call, then I finally got called in to do a general audition, then after that, I didn’t hear anything for a while. I got another call back to read for Hamilton and two other characters. They did not even add Burr yet. After that I did a little dance call, then they called me back for Burr stuff. After that I had another callback to do Hamilton, Burr and Mo Madison. That was the last initial round and then I got called in the final time to do it in front of all the producers. They were all there except Lin. They had a camera on and they said Lin is behind this camera watching. It was an hour of material. I’ll never forget it. We went through every single song twice. At that point I remember feeling, I’ve given everything. We don’t get much feedback in the room. We have to trust the work that we have done, let it go and move forward. And then I got the call that they wanted me to come and cover Hamilton, Burr and then they asked me to do the King song on tape and then I got the offer the next day.
I was a standby and I covered those three parts and I joined the Philip Tour at the end of 2018. I was doing it for about a year and a half and then I got promoted to be Hamilton in October 2019 and they told me I would take over in 2020. Let that settle in. March 2020. I was supposed to debut March 21st or 28th. I took a three week absence from my company at the end of February. I was like let me take some time and of course that’s when everything started to shift with covid. In my mind, this will be over in a couple of weeks, I’m about to debut, this is going to be amazing and it turned into 18 months with no work. To have that dream just snatched away in a second, it really shifted a lot of things for me.
Y: As a performer, do you have a favorite moment, segment or scene in Hamilton that you can not wait to play and hear that audience reaction?
PJG: Yes, it’s in Act II and it’s more like a section where Hamilton gets attacked with a lot of information and has to make a decision of outing himself about everything that he has built or allowing this thing to go over his head. It is such a musical moment musically, and also what a ride to go through as an actor. Those three songs have some of the best raps and they allow me to just lose myself on stage. Also I’m not going to lie, it feels good because at that point, there is only about 20 minutes left in the play. It is after all a three hour play. So I am very happy when we get to that part when we get to that part because we know we are almost done.
Next week part II.
Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.
Editors Note: A limited number of $10 HAMILTON lottery tickets will be made available for each performance. To enter the digital lottery, use the official app for HAMILTON, now available for all iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. The lottery will open at 10 a.m. every Friday and will close for entry at 12 p.m. the next Thursday prior to the following week’s performances. Winner and non-winner notifications will be sent between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. every Thursday for the upcoming week’s performances; winners will have two hours to claim and pay for their ticket(s). Lottery tickets may be picked up at Will Call with valid ID beginning two hours prior to the performance. Void if resold; maximum of two per patron.
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