Be­hind the scenes of the S. Fla. de­but of ‘Hamil­ton’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Rod Stafford Hag­wood SouthFlorida.com

“Hamil­ton,” the buzzi­est Broad­way show to ever run the boards is play­ing Fort Lauderdale for an un­prece­dented five weeks. So we hit up the hottest cast in the the­ater world for a few ques­tions about their stage se­crets and what their off­stage plans are here in South Florida.

At the Broward Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts from Dec. 18-Jan. 20, “Hamil­ton” has been a pop cul­ture phe­nom­e­non since it de­buted off-Broad­way in Fe­bru­ary 2015. The sung-through mu­si­cal, with very lit­tle dia­logue, went on to break box-of­fice records when it moved to Broad­way later that sum­mer. Aside from 11 Tony Awards, “Hamil­ton” also earned its cre­ator, Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Grammy Award.

The mu­si­cal fol­lows Alexan­der Hamil­ton’s life from his birth in the Caribbean, about as far away from po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence as one could be in the 1700s, to the very cen­ter of power after the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion. Far from a white­wash, the show also delves into Hamil­ton’s ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair, fam­ily tra­vails and death in a duel.

in­clud­ing crit­ics who later lauded Mi­randa’s col­or­blind cast­ing and use of ur­ban rhythms, could see just what the mu­si­cal would evolve into when he gave the­ater fans a sneak peek in May 2009 dur­ing a White House Po­etry Jam, per­form­ing what would be­come the mu­si­cal’s open­ing num­ber to a trans­fixed Barack and Michelle Obama. At the time, Mi­randa, who also cre­ated the rap-in­fused score for “In the Heights,” thought the project might be a hip-hop mix­tape.

The end re­sult of that cre­ative jour­ney is what South Florid­i­ans will get to see now and into 2019. “Hamil­ton” will also play West Palm Beach and Mi­ami dur­ing the 2019-2020 sea­son.

But first, you can read what the show’s prin­ci­pal cast mem­bers have to say. We asked them via email a few ques­tions about lit­tle ex­tras you should look out for and the time they spent in SoFlo be­fore this na­tional tour.

Joseph Mo­rales (Alexan­der Hamil­ton)

Have you been to SoFlo be­fore, for work or play?

I have! This will be my third time com­ing through with a show. I was in Fort Lauderdale two years ago with ‘If/Then.’ And Mi­ami around eight years ago with ‘In The Heights.’ We closed ‘Heights’ in Mi­ami, so it def­i­nitely has a spe­cial place in my heart. Lots of mem­o­ries of clos­ing that im­por­tant chap­ter of my life, hav­ing no idea that I’d be work­ing with a lot of the same peo­ple in ‘Hamil­ton’ a few years later.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

Have fun! We feed off the en­ergy of the au­di­ence. The show is ab­so­lute magic when we’re vib­ing with the crowd. Some­times pa­trons don’t re­al­ize that they are part of the show and the ex­pe­ri­ence. An au­di­ence that sits back and watches makes for a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than an au­di­ence that par­tic­i­pates. The en­ergy is so im­por­tant. We feel it. Also, PLEASE put your phones away. We can see you.

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence so they can spot it?

Nik [Walker, who plays Aaron Burr] and I have lots of mo­ments be­tween us that you prob­a­bly wouldn’t no­tice un­less you’re watch­ing for them. We play en­e­mies for half the show, which is hard be­cause we’re such good friends. I’ll sneak in a wink or a smile just to re­mind him that I still love him.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I’ve got fam­ily in Florida, so I will be spend­ing a lot of time with them. I’ve got two neph­ews that I don’t see nearly enough. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to spoil­ing them. And def­i­nitely the food. We are a cast of food­ies. Tweet me all your rec­om­men­da­tions. I will be check­ing out all the spots!

Ta’Rea Camp­bell (An­gel­ica Schuyler)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

This will be my fourth time per­form­ing in the area. The first was about 15 years ago with ‘Aida,’ ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Sis­ter Act’ and now I’m hap­pily back with ‘Hamil­ton.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

I want ev­ery­one to en­joy the show! An easy way to get lost in the story of ‘Hamil­ton’ is to leave your ex­pec­ta­tions be­hind and keep your cell phones off.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

Stay­ing for a long stint in sit­tings is al­ways great. It gives us time to re­ally set­tle in. I’m ex­cited for all of the gor­geous weather. Since we will be there for Christ­mas, I’m look­ing for­ward to giv­ing my­self the present of a mas­sage on the beach!

Nik Walker (Aaron Burr)

Have you ever been to SoFlo, ei­ther?

I’ve for sure [have] been to South Florida — came through on the ‘Mo­town’ tour oh-so-many years ago. And my ab­so­lute fa­vorite mem­ory is not what you might ex­pect. A lit­tle con­text: Be­tween fin­ish­ing my run at ‘Mo­town’ [on] Broad­way and do­ing the tour, I did a play out at the Den­ver Cen­ter called ‘One Night in Mi­ami,’ chron­i­cling the night Cas­sius Clay won against Sonny Lis­ton, where he and his three bud­dies — Sam Cooke, Mal­colm X and Jim Brown — de­cided to forgo a big fancy party at the Fon­tainebleau in lieu of a small gath­er­ing at a lo­cal ho­tel where they hung out, drank whiskey and ate ice cream. (They re­cently mounted a pro­duc­tion of it in Mi­ami, at the Colony The­atre.) I played Sam, and to this day the role and ex­pe­ri­ence re­main one of the most life-chang­ing I’ve par­taken in. The ac­tual night that the play is based on took place at the Hamp­ton House Ho­tel, which I found out was not only still stand­ing, but had been turned into a his­tor­i­cal site. So late one night after a show, I took an Uber out to the ho­tel by my­self and wan­dered around. It was closed, sadly, so I couldn’t go into the rooms, but just to be in this place where these four men had been, it meant the world to me. Def­i­nitely plan­ning to go back in the light of day and ex­plore all it has to of­fer.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

Phones off, mouths closed, ears open. The show moves fast and the lan­guage is one that not a lot of the­ater go­ers are used to, so it’s the kind of thing that de­mands your full and en­gaged at­ten­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate it. So the phones off bit is kind of the ob­vi­ous por­tion of that. The mouths closed part, how­ever — one of the phe­nom­ena of do­ing a show that gained a lot of its fame through its al­bum is that a lot of the peo­ple com­ing to see the show know ev­ery sin­gle word, and [thus] want to sing along, or at the very least, mouth along, cuz that’s what they’ve been do­ing in the car or in their bed­room when they lis­ten. And here’s the thing: You paid for these tick­ets with your hard earned money, you are com­pletely en­ti­tled to ex­pe­ri­ence our show in what­ever way you wish, pro­vided it’s not dis­tract­ing to those of us try­ing to per­form it.

That said, I’d re­mind peo­ple [that] this is not the al­bum. We as ac­tors have in­ten­tion­ally made choices that di­verge from what our pre­de­ces­sors did on said al­bum. So if you’re com­ing sim­ply to sing along to a live ver­sion of your fa­vorite al­bum, you might be thrown off by all the dif­fer­ences you’re hear­ing and might miss a lot of the nu­ances that we’ve taken the time to mine and present. I know 90 per­cent of the speeches in Richard III by heart (Shake­speare nerd, guilty as charged). But when I go to the show, I’m not mouthing along with them, I’m go­ing to see what THIS spe­cific team has cho­sen to do with the text. Again, do what­ever moves you, but I don’t want any­body robbed of the best ex­pe­ri­ence they could have!

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

If you know me or fol­low my so­cial me­dia (@NikkyWalks on IG and Twit­ter), you know I’m a mas­sive cine­file, and an es­pe­cially big fan of the Mar­vel Cine­matic Uni­verse. And I’m not say­ing ex­actly where, but I have ab­so­lutely snuck in a full-out Dr. Strange con­jur­ing move, some­where in the sec­ond act.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

It’s so funny [but] just cuz of the de­mands of the role, I spend most of my days on my couch eat­ing ce­real and watch­ing TV. That said, I’m a whiskey man and I’ve heard that Tap 42 and the Wilder have some amaz­ing whiskey drinks, so I’ll cer­tainly be see­ing them. My wife is also a foodie and she’ll be vis­it­ing, so I’ve been col­lect­ing restau­rant tips. So far I’ve got Amarena [Bak­ery and] Bistro, El Vez and Etaru. But yeah, if any­one has any must at eat spots, please hit me up — al­ways on the look­out !!!!

Mar­cus Choi (Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton)

Have you ever been to SoFlo? I’ve been to Fort Lauderdale

and Mi­ami for work in the past. I re­mem­ber any time I had off I would try to eat and drink as much Cuban food and cof­fee as pos­si­ble while walk­ing around ad­mir­ing all of the Art Deco ho­tels.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

I hope you lis­tened to the al­bum first. LOL.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I love the ocean, so I’m look­ing for­ward to be­ing out on the wa­ter and the beaches. I was talk­ing to peo­ple in my cast just a cou­ple of weeks ago to see who was in­ter­ested in a deep sea fish­ing trip. I’ve never been to the Ever­glades and I would love to get on a fan boat and go see some crit­ters! Also, I’m all about food! From hole-in-the-walls to fine din­ing, if it’s good, then I want to try it! Please find me on so­cial me­dia and send me sug­ges­tions! I feel like I’m go­ing to have a busy five weeks!

Shoba Narayan (El­iza Hamil­ton)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in South Florida, but this will be the first time I’ll be there for work! On a per­sonal note, my soon-tobe hus­band and in-laws are from this area, so I have many amaz­ing mem­o­ries of South Florida with them! I love watch­ing boats go by on the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way, vis­it­ing the beach and mak­ing the quick and easy trip to vi­brant Mi­ami. Mi­ami is awe­some — tons of nightlife, stun­ning beaches, de­li­cious restau­rant op­tions and a flour­ish­ing arts scene. I also have fond mem­o­ries from my trips to the Ever­glades, Wyn­wood Walls and Viz­caya Gar­dens.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

Bring Kleenex!

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

Depend­ing on where you sit, you might not see me dur­ing cer­tain scenes where El­iza is not a main player, but look around — she is al­ways present, many times read­ing love let­ters Alexan­der wrote to her.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I have lots of fun things planned! First, I want to try jet ski­ing! Sec­ond, I will most def­i­nitely be par­ty­ing it up in Mi­ami for New Years. And lastly, I want to go to Star Is­land! Maybe Glo­ria and Emilio Este­fan will come see the show and then in­vite me over to their house for mar­gar­i­tas! I’m just go­ing to put that out into the uni­verse.

Kyle Scatliffe (Mar­quis de Lafayette and Thomas Jef­fer­son)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

I have! I worked for Dis­ney Cruise Line in 2010. So I’ve been to Fort Lauderdale be­fore. StrangeFew,

ly enough, all I got to see was a mall be­cause the rest of the week I was on the ship. So I’m look­ing for­ward to fi­nally see­ing the city prop­erly. I’ve also been to Or­lando sev­eral times for Dis­ney and Uni­ver­sal and a Plain White T’s con­cert.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

Come into the show with your eyes, ears and hearts open.

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

I do my job with a lot of joy for my­self and my cast mates. Ba­si­cally through­out the whole show I’m al­ways try­ing to in­ject my own sen­si­bil­i­ties of fun into them while we are work­ing so it never feels like the same day twice. The only thing I’ve re­ally no­ticed is that in the sec­ond act I get re­ally spe­cific about my hand move­ments for some rea­son. I must be chan­nel­ing some po­lit­i­cal fig­ures with­out know­ing

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I am a big foodie and ar­cade snob. I will find the food and the games in ev­ery city I go to. We will def­i­nitely be check­ing out the night­club scene and Ever­glades tour. I didn’t even know there where celebrity chef restau­rants so thanks for that idea! The fish­ing and snor­kel­ing may be a prob­lem be­cause I kind of can’t swim. So I’ll be the cheer­leader on land giv­ing them mo­ti­va­tion.

Jon Patrick Walker (King Ge­orge)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

My grand­par­ents lived in Lauderdale-bythe-Sea when I was grow­ing up, so I spent many Christ­mas hol­i­days and some sum­mer va­ca­tions there. Mem­o­ries in­clude trips to Dis­ney World (pre-Ep­cot!), Lion Coun­try Sa­fari. Also lots of time on the beach play­ing Fris­bee with my dad and soak­ing up the sun!

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

I would whis­per: Turn off your cell phones!

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

My King Ge­orge has a ner­vous left leg that gets a lit­tle twitchy when he’s ag­i­tated or ex­cited. Watch for it! Also, dur­ing the ‘Reynold’s Pam­phlet’ num­ber, I am up on the sur­round do­ing a very silly dance (prior to my walk­ing down onto the stage).

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

My wife and two daugh­ters will be com­ing for two weeks while we are here, so I look for­ward to show­ing them around, maybe steal­ing away to Dis­ney on a day off, see­ing rel­a­tives (aunts and un­cles, cousins), check­ing out lo­cal cui­sine and hit­ting the beaches! Note to self: buy a Fris­bee!

Nyla Sostre (Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

When I grad­u­ated the fifth grade I did ex­cep­tion­ally well in all my classes and my mother, my el­dest sis­ter and her hus­band all took me to Mi­ami for two weeks of fun in the sun. We stayed at this amaz­ing ho­tel and I can re­mem­ber so vividly learn­ing to scuba dive in the pool out front of the ho­tel, do­ing arts and crafts with the other guests and swim­ming ev­ery day. I also got to go to Dis­ney World while I was there as well as Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, which was the bees knees. I guess all this [is] to say when I think of Florida, I re­mem­ber tons of fun.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

In the words of an­other fa­mous Broad­way show ‘Be pre­pared!’ Ready your­self for the lights, the mu­sic, the cos­tumes, the voices, the char­ac­ters and the story! There are so many things hap­pen­ing on stage at any given mo­ment, you can watch the show 100 times and still find some­thing you’ve never seen be­fore. Be pre­pared to leave teary eyed and hope­ful!

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

In the scene “We Know” I am stand­ing un­der the stage right stair­case watch­ing the en­tire scene hap­pen. When we were still in re­hearsal … I had so many ques­tions as to why I was stand­ing there and watch­ing. Through­out the show you will see a lot of the cast mem­bers on the sur­round or in the crevices here and there on the stage when they are not the char­ac­ter say­ing the lines. You will also no­tice that there is a very min­i­mal set and not many in­tri­cate set changes. We were told as a com­pany that we are all the sto­ry­tellers as well as the lis­ten­ers. The sym­bol­ism meant in me stand­ing un­der that stair­case is that I found out all the things that were be­ing said in that room about me. With this un­der­stand­ing I started to dig deeper and deeper into what Maria felt about all of the ru­mors. If she even un­der­stood what was go­ing on. Or if she could even do any­thing to change the out­come be­fore it was too late. This is very eas­ily one of my fa­vorite scenes to play in the show be­cause I have no song to sing, no words to say, but I can still feel the weight of ev­ery­thing that is com­ing and the red dress and the bro­ken look in my eyes says it all!

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I ac­tu­ally have lined up a va­ca­tion on the first week of the New Year, which co­in­cides with our Florida dates. I plan to do as much as I can in those seven days, but I’m par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about swim­ming with dol­phins. It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do, but never had the chance. I would also like to visit the Ever­glades and not be eaten by the wildlife in there. Over­all I know it will be the best win­ter I have ever had!

Eli­jah Mal­comb (John Lau­rens and Philip Hamil­ton)

Have you ever been to SoFlo?

I vis­ited Florida once be­fore in the sec­ond grade for my sis­ter’s bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment in Kis­sim­mee. My fa­vorite mem­o­ries are catch­ing frogs in the lake be­hind the con­dos we were stay­ing in and swim­ming dur­ing a storm. Be­ing from Cal­i­for­nia, swim­ming in the rain is not a thing.

If you could whis­per some­thing into ev­ery­one’s ears as they ar­rive for the per­for­mance, what would it be?

En­joy the ride.

Is there a lit­tle some­thing un­der-the-radar that you do in the show that you would like to share with the au­di­ence?

There isn’t re­ally any­thing I do un­der the radar be­sides a high five with Nik Walker and dif­fer­ent hand­shakes with Fergie L. Philippe, Kyle Scatliffe, and Brandt Martinez.

Since the show sits in Fort Lauderdale for five weeks, what is on your must-do list?

I am an ad­ven­tur­ous spirit so I’m ex­cited to do ev­ery­thing I can. From the beach to the Ever­glades, the nightlife, snor­kel­ing, fish­ing. The beach/ ocean is one of my happy places on Earth.

JOAN MAR­CUS/COUR­TESY

Joseph Mo­rales as Alexan­der Hamil­ton in “Hamil­ton,” which plays the Broward Cen­ter in Fort Lauderdale Dec. 18-Jan. 20.

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