Ladies and gentlemen, the hottest phenomenon on the stage, Hamilton, is here. While it's taken more than a year to arrive, the hottest Broadway ticket finally settles in Houston on April 24, making the Hobby Center its home for almost a month (through May 20).
CultureMap caught up with Houstonian and Hamilton insider, cast member Dorcas Leung. Excited to help bring the Tony Award-winning show to her hometown, Leung, a Broadway and television veteran, was happy to give us the scoop of what we should know before seeing the show.
As a standby performer, Leung must always be ready to go on for any of the major female roles, Angelica Schuyler, Eliza Hamilton, and Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds, when the principle cast member needs to bows out. Sometimes Leung knows a month in advance she’ll jump into character on a given night; sometimes she has to make an entrance with as little as half an hour notice. Yet Leung says she’s living her dream and enjoys the acting challenge of having to know so many parts.
Leung gives some of the credit to her love of musical theater to growing up in Houston, going on theater field trips as a child and then participating in high school performing arts programs. In fact, this won’t be Leung’s first time on a Hobby Center stage. She was last lit by Hobby lights several years ago competing in the Theatre Under the Stars Tommy Tune Awards with her Stratford High School classmates in Damn Yankees, and yes they won best musical.
“I’m so excited to go back and do a professional show in that setting,” says Leung of this Houston to Broadway and back journey. “I remember being in high school and being in awe when I looked around backstage and saw all the wall texts of different shows that had been there. It’s bizarre for me that I’m going to be in the show that’s there.”
Our expert advisor offers up the Hamilton dish, even spilling some revolutionary tea on backstage secrets, to get you ready to join the musical revolution.
The hip-hop of Hamilton
If you’ve heard all the well-deserved acclaim, but kept yourself mostly spoiler free, Leung says be prepared for a musical unlike any other.
“I think what people are most surprised by is the sheer amount of music and how hip-hop and pop-based the score is,” describes Leung. “From the moments you sit down, and hear those first beats, you’ll say: Oh, I’m at a concert. You’re not sitting down for a normal musical; you’re sitting down for an experience, a storytelling experience with hip-hop and pop music involved.”
Live theater is never the same twice
For those who already have the Grammy-winning cast album memorized, or even the lucky Texans who might have seen the show in New York, Leung says Hamilton offer revelations every night.
“I think as an audience member even if you’ve heard the the album backwards and forwards, it’s not exactly what you’ve been hearing every day. That’s exciting because this is a piece of art that’s fluid. So many people can do the roles in different ways and you still get a powerful story.”
All about the history
The musical tells the life story of founding father Alexander Hamilton and depicts the American Revolution with a driving beat. Yet, it also dives into the politics of the creation of the First Bank of the United States and why our national capitol sits on the Potomac instead of the Hudson, making remote historical fact into relevant and even relatable theater.
Leung reveals that as part of the rehearsal process all the actors receive history packets and are expected to do their own research and maybe some self-assigned homework. She calls Ron Chernow’s book that inspired the musical “riveting.”
“The show humanizes what we think of as these towering old white men,” describes Leung. “It humanizes them, showing them as they were: young, revolutionaries causing a ruckus in this new country. It also shows their scandals, how they fell in love and become fathers. It puts modern people in touch with our history.”
The Revolution is growing
As a standby, Leung is part of a second cast ready to go on at a moment’s notice, but she’s also a part of a huge and now international Hamilton family.
“Everyone in Hamilton is HamFam,” she says.
Besides the New York show, which is still difficult to get a ticket for, Chicago has its own long-term production and now so does London. Most important for the rest of us, two Hamilton casts tour the nation, named the Philip cast and the Angelica cast. Having two tours allows the production to spend more time in any one city, giving more people the opportunity see the show.
“Being able to sit down in these cities that may not have the opportunity to see Hamilton is not only a present to the city but also a present to us because every show we do is so unique and special, and we’re excited to share that with the rest of the city,” explains Leung.
While the main cast and its large standby cast is enormous, even the set, with a revolving stage within a larger revolving stage and four sets of stairs, has its own backup. There are actually four sets roaming the country right now, two for each touring production. Because it takes so long to assemble, the two stages leap frog each other, only stopping at every other city.
All in the HamFam
With so many Alexander Hamiltons, George Washingtons, Angelica Schuylers, and Marquis de Lafayettes running around the U.S. and now England, you might think there would be a bit of good-natured acting competition, but Leung says no. Everyone is supportive of each other. In fact, the first national tour sent out video congratulations to the second touring cast, when the names were announced.
“It’s quite amazing that we have so many companies that are able to relate to us and know the process that we also go through. They share the joy of being able share the story with other people too. That’s pretty fun.”
Tickets to Hamilton are still available for select shows. Ham fans can also try the ticket lottery, which releases 32 tickets for $10 per performance. For details check the official Hamilton lottery registration.