From the developmental workshop for the run at The Public Theater to The Great White Way, I was very much in the room where it happened (the only one, I swear).
I had the privilege of bringing Hamilton to Broadway starting with a developmental workshop in 2014, to the off-Broadway run at The Public Theater in 2015 to its current home on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theater. The workshop took place over the course of 4 weeks. I was still in Matilda on Broadway at the time and was shuttling back and forth between rehearsals at 890 Broadway during the day and The Shubert Theater in the evening. Rehearsal days were full of learning Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dense musical score and trying to solidify Andy Blankenbuehler’s complex choreography. It was a whirlwind of scrapping this, remembering that, re-doing that one thing (5 times), and barely returning to the things that worked. It was stressful…it was exhilarating. In the 4 weeks of rehearsal, we couldn’t even finish putting the show on its feet. It was decided that we would only do Act 1 with blocking and choreography and that Act 2 would be presented as a tableau with binders of music and music stands. The workshop was received with awe and excitement and a whole lot of buzz. Every encounter I had with Hamilton in those early phases left me rather speechless. The music was incredible by being both catchy and smart. I was in love with the choreography. This finally felt like the first musical I’d come across where my degree in dance (training aimed for company work) was finally paying off.
A few months after the workshop, we started rehearsals for the off-Broadway run at The Public Theater. The ensemble was called in a week ahead of the principals because Andy had a bunch of ideas he wanted to work through before adding everyone in. That week we were on our feet from 10am-6pm, Monday-Saturday, dancing and choreographing and adding and subtracting, creating the structure and vocabulary for a 3 hour show of wall to wall music that would be narrated not only by its main characters but also by its dancers. Little by little I began to see how and why this gaggle of unique individuals were hired. Everyone was different from the next person while all being creative and confident. Slowly it became clear to me who I was in this merry band of misfits…I was the technician, the one hired to point my feet and be lifted, to contribute my concert dance brain into the realm of musical theater. I was in! I was hooked! I was totally drinking the Kool-aid. Watching Lin, Andy, Tommy Kail and Alex Lacamoire work together was unlike anything I’d witnessed with the other three shows I’d originated. These men were a cohesive unit all intent on serving the best interests of the show as a whole. No one man’s ideas were more important than the show. It was fascinating and unique. I wasn’t quite sure how we’d be received upon opening, but I certainly shouldn’t have worried. The audiences that came to see us at The Public Theater were as enthralled with the show as I had been developing it in the workshop. Celebrities started showing up during previews. The likes of Sir Paul McCartney, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as then First Lady Michelle Obama. It was all surreal. During the workshop and the lead up to The Public, there was very little if any talk about the show going to Broadway, but my heart knew that no world existed where this show WOULDN’T transfer, and I was correct.
With the move to Broadway, my experience with Hamilton began to shift. Gone were the days of collaborative developmental rehearsals where we all were creating and shaping the piece together. Our run at The Public Theater had solidified the mass of what Hamilton was, and the focus of rehearsals for Broadway were about whittling away some unnecessary story and making clearer the minutiae of the show. It was tedious and quick, necessary, but less enjoyable than the rest of the process. Hamilton being my 6th Broadway show in as many years, burning the candle at both ends was catching up to me. My body hurt. I found the show schedule frustrating and limiting. Performing 8 shows a week was losing its luster. I needed a break. About 6 months into the Broadway run, I was fairly angry most of the time and too tired to be almost anything but miserable, which were major indicators to me that I needed to move on, so I turned in my notice and left the show, ultimately at the apex of its popularity. To this day, I have never regretted that decision even though it meant not performing with the cast at the Tony Awards. Hamilton ushered me into full adulthood and with adulthood come priority shifts that one never dreams of as a child, when dreaming of taking centerstage on Broadway. I had finally accepted wanting both something more and something gentler at the same time. It was completely the correct decision. That being said, I am honored to have been part of such a magnificent show. I don’t think anyone necessarily thinks they’ll ever be in a phenom, like Hamilton or Rent or A Chorus Line. I certainly didn’t. Being in a theatrical game changer, also tends to change the game of life. I was ready for that.