Oceans rise, empires fall…and Brian d’Arcy James is officially making his return to Hamilton as King George III, a role he originated Off Broadway.
To welcome him back, the current cast of Hamilton staged a “coronation” to officially induct him as the next heir to the throne. The preceding King, SNL’s Taran Killam, passed the scepter in an onstage ceremony featured as this week’s digital #Ham4Ham.
Reading from his phone, Killam made a mock proclamation, saying, “Today is a glorious day, today we celebrate the the coro-knee-tion, nay, the coro-RE-tion, of our new, well, old, but new to Broadway, not on Broadway, new to this Broadway. . . He’s new to here, it’s very complicated. And apparently, the only way to replace our current King is to go back to square one.”
Killam commenced a ceremony that included remarks from George Eacker (Gregory Haney) and a blessing from George Washington (Bryan Terrell Clark), as well as an appearance from Broadway’s first King George III, Jonathan Groff. The presentation, known as the “Order of the Garter,” is done to welcome each new King George to the cast and involves tying a ceremonial garter around the leg of the new King. Groff was on hand to help pass the crown, kneeling to tie the garter around d’Arcy James’ bare leg.
The ceremony was first created by d’Arcy James back when the role passed to Groff for the production’s move to Broadway from the Public Theater. He explained the ritual to Slate, saying, “When I left the show I wanted to do something special, so I created a ritual. . . As Hamilton fans will note, all kings wore garters around their calves, and it was the order of their familial lines. I wrote up this sketch where all of the characters named George in the show would come in and be present for the ascension of the new king and the passing of the garter. It’s all set to a song called ‘Electric Bird’ by Sia. You have to do it like a groom placing a garter on a bride’s thigh. [Christopher Jackson, who played Washington] came up with this — he said, ‘You should be King George the Third the First, and Jonathan will be King George the Third the Second, and it will go on and on.’ We did it with Jonathan, and then to my great, great happiness, they did it when Jonathan left, and Andrew [Rannells] took over. It’s awesome! It’s another way of saying, ‘I was here.'”
d’Arcy James has been christened “King George III the First B. the Sixth” with the “B” standing for Broadway, acknowledging his past history with the role and his ascension to the throne for the first time on Broadway. Killam said, “I just want to say what an honor it is to hand back this crown and this role to the man who started it all, who started this wonderful tradition . . . It’s so exciting to have you back here.”
Killam and Groff also presented the new/returning monarch with framed pairs of underwear worn by actors who previously portrayed King George III, noting that he has “big balls” to fill. The “once and future King,” as described by Lin-Manuel Miranda in a tweet, took to the stage in his new crown and garter to give concluding remarks, saying, “In the words of the immortal Alexander Hamilton, ‘let’s go.'”