Edred Utomi is in his element. Embracing the role of a lifetime, and channeling his Nigerian roots, he brings a fresh interpretation to his role as Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton himself was an immigrant, having been born in the British West Indies and coming to America as a teenager.
“My connection is the immigrant side of it,” said Utomi. “My parents are Nigerian immigrants so I draw a lot of my performance on what I saw growing up. I saw my parents going through certain situations. Even the mindset of being in a situation and how my parents would interpret that.
"I also grew up listening to a lot of rap and musical theater. Those were my two worlds. Musically, I draw a lot from that."
At the 2016 Tony Awards, ‘Hamilton’ received a record setting 16 nominations, winning 11 awards, including Best Musical. Also in 2016 it received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
When asked as to why he thought this play is so successful, Utomi was quick to respond, “At the core, this is a rags to riches story. The idea that somebody who comes from nothing makes something of themselves. That is a universally accepted theme. That’s something people connect with especially when they see the show in its entirety.”
Although it’s hard to believe, when I mentioned to a friend that ‘Hamilton’ the Broadway National Tour was in town at Chrysler Hall through December 29th, I was surprised to find out that he was not familiar with this masterpiece of musical theater. So I posed this question to Utomi: How would you describe the show to someone who has not seen or heard of it before?
“It’s the story of Alexander Hamilton told through the medium of hip hop, theater and some jazz music presented by some non traditional casting. It’s the story of America then, told by the people of America now. They were all white, but nowadays in America we have all types of nationalities.”
In regards to ‘Hamilton’, something very exciting is going to happen to over 2200 students from Title I schools. The Hamilton Education Program offered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is making it possible for some Hampton Roads students and teachers, along with others as far away as Annapolis, Raleigh and Princeton to attend the matinee performance at Chrysler Hall on December 19th.
The students have spent the last several weeks studying America’s Founding Fathers through a special integrated curriculum. It will culminate with an experience of a lifetime. Not only will they see the musical ‘Hamilton’, but the students will participate in a Q&A with some members of the ‘Hamilton’ company. If that is not enough, some students will perform on the Chrysler stage an original work infusing rap, songs, poetry and monologues that they created based on their classroom lessons.
For this student matinee performance, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Jeffrey Seller worked closely with the Rockefeller Foundation to make sure the show is easily accessible by making tickets available for $70.00, $60.00 of which is paid for by the Rockefeller Foundation. Thus it costs each student only $10.00 (or a Hamilton).
The nonprofit Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is dedicated to promoting knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. For more information: www.gilderlehrman.org, www.Facebook.com/gilderlehrman, www.instagram.com/gilderlehrman, and www.twitter.com/Gilder_Lehrman.
For tickets and dates go to https://www.sevenvenues.com/events/detail/hamilton