‘A feast of art’: Groundbreaking ‘Hamilton’ on the horizon

Blockbuster hip-hop musical will be held Jan. 26-Feb. 6 at Schuster Center



Are you ready to be in the room where it happens?

The highly anticipated local premiere of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking 2015 Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning blockbuster “Hamilton: An American Musical” will be presented Jan. 26-Feb 6. at the Schuster Center.

Based on Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of flawed founding father Alexander Hamilton, the musical tells the story of Hamilton’s inspiring and thought-provoking rise as an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s sidekick during the Revolutionary War. He also served as America’s first Treasury Secretary.

Featuring choreography by Cincinnati native Andy Blankenbuehler, the musical won 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Score, Book of a Musical, Direction of a Musical, Choreography, and Orchestrations. The score features tuneful and expertly character-conscious musical numbers such as “Alexander Hamilton,” “My Shot,” “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” “One Last Time” and “The Reynolds Pamphlet” just to name a few. Above all, Miranda’s savvy, hip-hop pedigree fuels the show’s fascinating take on the perspectives of the past illuminated in the sounds and movement of the present.

“One of the most extraordinary things about ‘Hamilton’ is that it brings hip-hop back to its origins,” said Stephanie Jae Park, who portrays Eliza, Hamilton’s wife. “Hip-hop is about the art of storytelling. I think a lot of people who don’t listen to hip-hop might think of it as just talk about money, sex and drugs, but the origin of it is storytelling. So, to have a musical bridge the gap between musical theatre and hip-hop is an extraordinary, exciting combination.”



Female empowerment within a world of men

As Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures place themselves at the forefront of political change and revolution, Eliza and her sisters Angelica and Peggy Schuyler represent strong women who were also impactful. In addition to the brilliance, attitude and wit of the aforementioned knockout “The Schuyler Sisters,” the musical’s message of female empowerment within a world of men continually fuels its resonance.

“I don’t think Alexander could be as much of who he was without Eliza,” Park said. “Alexander is an academic genius, but she is the exact same genius when it comes to the emotional side of humanity. And Eliza carried on his legacy plus her own legacy, beautifully starting the first private orphanage in New York City and using her emotional intelligence to change thousands of people’s lives. I feel so honored to play a beautifully strong feminine role. Although there are only three women out of the 10 principal roles, it’s cool that there is such diversity among those women, especially a diversity of strengths.”

Reflecting on Eliza’s compelling transition from inquisitive young woman to devoted wife and mother, Park noted her appreciation for the drama within her Act 2 solo “Burn,” which finds Eliza infuriated and heartbroken about Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds.

“Eliza is the most perfect, supportive woman she can be, constantly asking what she exactly wants from Alexander and being dismissed here and there, and in ‘Burn,’ we finally get to see the reward of her finally taking the power back,” she said. “She erases herself from his narrative but that’s the moment she decides to live for herself. I fill the song with justified anger.”



Embracing diversity and inclusivity

“Hamilton” thrives as the poster child for inclusivity, purposefully assembling non-White actors to portray historical White characters in an attempt to form a more perfect union of what musical theatre can be. Miranda, a native New Yorker with Puerto Rican roots, bulldozes the traditional theatrical landscape to allow African-Americans to portray Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, Hispanics to portray the titular role, and African-Americans and Asians to portray George Washington.

“I never thought I could play a role that wasn’t Asian until ‘Hamilton’ came along,” said Park, a Guam native who grew up in Boulder, Colorado and received her B.F.A. in musical theatre from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. “This show was a huge game-changer for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community in New York and elsewhere.”

An original cast member of Lincoln Center’s gorgeous 2015 Broadway revival of “The King and I,” particularly understudying the role of Tuptim, Park is grateful for the opportunity Miranda provides, allowing her to expand her artistic horizons beyond what she perceived they could be. In many respects, she finally feels seen.

“As a woman, it feels important to play Eliza, and specifically as an Asian woman, a full-Korean woman, I haven’t really seen a lot of full-Asian actors on stage unless they’re playing an Asian role,” she said. “So, I feel a huge responsibility to represent, especially because I grew up never having seen that before and never really thinking that was a possibility. I take representation for everybody very seriously. It feels amazing.”

Navigating the coronavirus quandary

The winter omicron surge has caused postponements and cancellations of numerous Broadway shows and national tours. “Hamilton,” which has three tours crisscrossing North America, is no exception. In fact, a San Antonio engagement has been moved to summer 2023 due to the surge. The tour Dayton will receive is currently on a three-week layoff having been unable to perform in Ottawa, Canada due to COVID-related capacity restrictions.

“We are nervous about our industry and having these shutdowns have been very triggering,” said Park, who recalls being devastated last fall by the production canceling one of its Atlanta performances at the last minute due to COVID as audience members were waiting in line in the rain to enter the theatre. “We want to do this show for the audience very badly, yet we are glad our producers prioritize our health because it’s definitely scary to have your scene partner or dance partner test positive. It’s a tricky balance. The cancellations have been show by show, case by case. I have a great feeling about Dayton. It feels like we are over the peak of the omicron variant and most in the company have either gotten boosted or had COVID.”

Dayton Live, who eliminated its vaccination requirement last fall but kept its mask mandate intact, declined to speak about any communication with the tour, particularly its confidence in opening as scheduled. However, the organization is monitoring events closely and prepared to adjust if necessary.

“We are following all of our protocols to keep everyone in the cast, crew and audience healthy, but as you have seen on Broadway, in Ohio and around the country, there have been interruptions,” said Ty Sutton, Dayton Live President and CEO. “Should there be any changes to the performance schedule, we’ll announce it publicly through a variety of channels to get the word out. Checking the website daytonlive.org and following us on social media are the best ways to get the most up to date performance information.”

Nevertheless, Park is pleased to be back on the road after being unable to perform for a year-and-a-half. With a renewed sense of purpose post-quarantine, she is aware of how special “Hamilton” is not only to her and the cast but the audience.

“As a company, we were reminded how much we love our audience and how alive we feel and how comfortable we feel on stage because there is no show without the audience,” she said. “The payoff of live theater, having the audience right there with you engaging, supporting and cheering for you, is a kind of magic I don’t think any of us will ever take for granted again. Between the characters, actors, staging, choreography, set design and lighting design, ‘Hamilton’ is truly a feast of art. Go into it with an open heart because the show will take you on a journey.”


What: “Hamilton: An American Musical”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Jan. 26-Feb. 6; Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Jan. 28 at 8 p.m.; Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Jan. 30 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 4 at 8 p.m.; Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Length: 2 hours and 50 minutes including a 20-minute intermission

Cost: $49-$349

Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at 937-228-3630 or visit daytonlive.org

Lottery: Forty tickets will be available for every performance of “Hamilton” for $10 each. The ticket lottery opened at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 14 and will close at noon Thursday, Jan. 20 for tickets to performances Wednesday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Jan. 30. The next lottery will open at 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 21 and will close at noon Thursday, Jan. 27 for tickets to performance Tuesday, Feb. 1 through Sunday, Feb. 6. To enter, use the official app for “Hamilton” now available for all IOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store (http://hamiltonmusical.com/app). For complete details, visit daytonlive.org/hamilton-lottery.

COVID-19 protocol: Masks are required for patrons over the age of 6

FYI: Visit daytonlive.org to stay informed of any potential “Hamilton” cancellations before or during its run.

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