'Hamilton': What's next?
With 11 Tony wins (not to mention a Grammy and Pulitzer), Hamilton has secured its legacy as a Broadway phenomenon. But creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda leaves the show July 9, the same month the original cast’s contracts are up. So the future of Hamilton most certainly lies in the hands of its next generation of actors — on Broadway and beyond.
As has been announced, the show will first take a step towards a sit-down run in Chicago, which begins in September. Casting director Bernard “Bernie” Telsey and his company call it the primary focus, as that production goes into rehearsal this August. From there, a national tour will kick off in San Francisco in March, with a forthcoming production headed to London’s West End, and even a rumored fourth production in the works as well.
“We did that on Rent, and the same with Wicked,” says Telsey, who cast Hamilton with lead partner Bethany Knox. “Rent was successful like that, where they had that many productions right away. Wicked had two tours simultaneously on top of Broadway. We’re seeing the same people all the time, and when you’re auditioning and looking, you’re not figuring out in the beginning stages who’s going where. But if you find two Peggys that you like, one goes to Chicago and one goes to San Francisco.”
The process, however, isn’t as easy as just sending the perfect Peggy off across the country. The office began holding replacement auditions last October, with the show’s creative team — including Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire — seeing people as early as January. “A lot of it is young people, so you need to do a lot of detective work in finding new people as well as some seasoned performers,” says Telsey, who’s also a veteran theater producer and co-artistic director of MCC Theater. “We have to dig a little deeper and find a way to meet the talent that we might not know,” he continues, “And the roles are really hard. Regardless of the diversity, there’s the rapping, and not everyone can do [that]. We’re seeing hundreds of actors who can’t do that. The rapping makes this show a little bit trickier than, say, a traditional show.”
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One of the Hamilton trademarks, of course, is its ethnically diverse cast, with an array of non-white actors playing historically white Founding Fathers (and Mothers). But while the principal roles will still likely go to non-white actors, Telsey says there’s not much pressure to match the race of the replacement actors with the person who originated the part — meaning that the next Angelica Schuyler won’t necessarily be African-American, like Tony winner Renee Elise Goldsberry. Staying true to this vision does require a bit of extra work: “You’re putting together a tapestry,” he says. “We just want it to look like America, and that’s what’s so beautiful about that show. It’s really been wonderful watching the auditions, because you see how open [the creative team] is to anybody. If they can do what’s demanding in the role and tell this story, then we’re golden.”
As the cast changes, the Hamilton audience has evolved, too. “At the beginning, the audience was so silent, because they understood that every couplet is not to be missed,” Goldsberry said in the press room at the Tonys, after shewon for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. “And now, we have more and more audiences that are so familiar with this music… So I know that the London production, and the San Francisco production, and the Chicago production will have more and more people that have a greater intimacy with the work. It will be like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It will be a party.” Goldsberry also admitted she would “love” to reprise her role as Angelica on the West End.
Daveed Diggs, who won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his dual role as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, isn’t quite sure what the future will bring for him. “[Hamilton] has opened so many doors — doors that I didn’t even know existed,” he said after the Tonys. Is the rapper-turned-Broadway star headed to Hollywood? “I hope to try all of that,” he said. “The little taste I’ve been getting of television work and just working with more incredible artists in different mediums is really exciting.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to move on: “Hamilton is so much fun to do still — however many hundreds of shows in, no matter what kind of day I’m having, as soon as we start performing the show, it’s the best part of my day,” he says. “That is not a thing to be taken lightly when you’re figuring out what to do next. We could keep doing this.”
Even Miranda is not quite ready to say goodbye long-term: the next Hamilton class may get a chance to refine their rhymes alongside the master himself. “I intend to drop in on this thing over and over,” Miranda teased to reporters in the press room after the Tonys. “I want to cut to 20 years from now, when you’re like, ‘Lin, when will you stop playing Hamilton?’ ”