Hamilton is one of the hottest tickets to be had, and now Dallas can fight over seats for the Tony Award-winning musical with its arrival to the Music Hall at Fair Park. From its premiere Tuesday through May 5, audiences can see firsthand the Lin-Manuel Miranda brainchild that mixes history with hip-hop, highlighting one of America’s original founding fathers.
History class mainstays, such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, make appearances as Alexander Hamilton carves out his legacy in the early years of the U.S. Cast member Marcus Choi plays the role of the first president, George Washington, as part of the touring cast stopping in Dallas.
Choi has, to put it mildly, an impressive resume ranging from performances in Broadway classics like Miss Saigon and Wicked, to television roles in popular shows like Chicago P.D. and Luke Cage. We had a chance to speak with Choi before his first performance of many at Fair Park.
How familiar were you with Hamilton before auditioning? Tickets were so hard to come by, is this something you were able to see?
In 2015 when Hamilton debuted, I was actually in another show called Allegiance on Broadway. It’s crazy. At that time, when you’re on Broadway, when Hamilton opened, nothing else mattered. I mean people would go see shows just because they couldn’t all fit into the Hamilton theater.
So they would go see shows, but nothing else mattered. Eventually when they started auditioning for different companies, I had like three auditions and then I had a final callback and made it down to the end for … I think initially I had auditioned for Hamilton and Burr, but didn’t end up getting it. That was for the Chicago and Angelica company. And then about 10 months later they brought me back in to read for Washington, and that was for the Philip company, and I ended up getting that.
You’ve been a part of huge productions like Miss Saigon and Wicked. How does performing in Hamilton compare to the other shows you’ve been in?
I was in the original company of Wicked, and at the time, it feels very familiar to that. The mania that surrounds the show and the attention that it gets. On kind of all levels. Back then social media wasn’t around, so the attention that we would get was very in-your-face. So we would see the response at the stage door, or the amount of times we would hear the songs from the show playing in restaurants or cars that drove by, or whatever soundtrack of a TV show. Every area of media and entertainment, Wicked was finding its way into it. It’s very similar, if not more, for Hamilton.
And I think the thing I find so genius about the show is that it doesn’t cater to just one group of people. You have the people who love musicals, then you also have the people who love hip-hop, then you also have the people who love history. When we look out into our audience, it’s pretty incredible to see children and the elderly and everything in between and every color in between.
Does touring with the show impact your performance differently than having one committed theater you’re performing in?
We’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I would say in the beginning, definitely. What really affects our performances is weather. Allergies. The climate changes from one state to the next; it messes with our facility, our voice, our sinuses and whatnot. I feel like now we have a pretty good grasp of what we need to do in order to do the show, but going from one city to the next … I feel like we’re just all so used to it now.
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It’s not too taxing, and it’s always exciting coming to a new city. I was just telling someone the other day, whenever we go to a new city, everything is so unfamiliar to me. And it happens every time. By the time we’re done with the city, and we’re leaving, I can give directions to people to go to this place and go down here. Two blocks here and make a left, and it’s like blah blah blah and go down this alley and there’s this great little coffee shop in the back. It’s crazy, but it happens every time.
Being a part of a show like Hamilton that so many people are very passionate about, do you get a chance to put your own spin on the role?
Yeah, when we were rehearsing, the creative team, Tommy Kail and Alex Lacamoire, Andy Blankenbuehler, they were really great about letting us figure out in the rehearsal room what felt organic. Yes, we have to say the right words, we have to have the essence of the relationships between all these people, but there was a general sense of placement of where they wanted things to happen because we have to hit spotlights, we have to hit specials. The staging has to be similar, but the way that we would get to places and the way that we would connect with each other, that was always kind of open for us to discover.
Which was a huge luxury to have, because that doesn’t always happen. And I think that’s another reason why the show has continued to be so successful with every company, because they give the actors that freedom to be able to discover their own way. So the actor also feels a bit of ownership. So yeah there is some leeway, but at the end of the day, it is a product, so we have to maintain that product. But within that maintenance of it, there’s certainly room for nuance.