There are many remarkable things about Hamilton. Hailed as a shape-shifter in musical theater, Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-centric historical drama has won Tony, Olivier and Grammy awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize, and has been an audience success since its off-Broadway debut in 2015. Yet perhaps the most interesting aspect is that its titular hero should be the subject of a musical.
Outside of America, prior to the musical, the story of Alexander Hamilton would have been little known. His role in the Revolution and subsequent work contributing to the U.S. Constitution, his founding role in American banking and finance, and his launching of the now infamous New York Post are not the usual fare of big budget Broadway spectaculars. Without the manner of his death, it's hard to imagine any of us here in Australia talking much about him. You see, founding father Alexander Hamilton had the good grace to die in classic American fashion. Blow! In his case, by a sitting vice president in a duel on the banks of the Hudson River.
Miranda's genius was to make a 200-year-old story sing. Like Elandrah Eramiha, who plays two roles in the upcoming Australian premiere of Hamilton says: "It's very today. We always hear that 'New York today tells us about New York then'. We tell him how we tell stories by nowThat's why it's so popular. So even though it's a musical, it's very human, that's why people understand it.
Indeed, aside from the historical sights and their fascinating contemporary parallels, what attracted Eramiha was purely theatrical. "It works for me because of the music and the way they tell the story," she reveals. "If someone gave me a book about him [Hamilton], I probably wouldn't read it, but because they do it through incredible music, it spoke to me. Then when I learned the lyrics and the story, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is really fascinating and twisted,' and I fell in love with it. "
Since graduating from the Patrick School of the Arts in Melbourne in 2016, Eramiha has already won a Green Room nomination, as well as roles in Kiss of the spider woman, Bring it on and In the heightsbut in HamiltonShe will be doubling as Peggy in the first act and Maria in the second act. "I love the challenge of it," she says. "I have two totally different characters. One was raised around wealth and privilege, but not the other. They're so different that I really appreciate that.
The other thing she loves about performing is that it syncs with her passion for R&B and hip hop. When she's not performing, she's part of the 90/10 duo. As she explains, "These are things I love and grew up with, so I feel like it really helped with this musical. Hamilton is a little bit different musically from the usual, so it's really nice to have something I know to tackle. I've never had that before, so it really helps.
However, the elephant in the rehearsal studio is microscopic this time. Our old friend, COVID. The size of Hamilton requires a large distribution and a large team, and the now familiar protocols are in place. Masks, disinfectant, weekly testing for all. "So when we do voice calls, they spread out all the chairs so we can sing," Eramiha explains. "We're even spaced out on the floor. Everyone is watching and trying to make sure we're doing the right thing. But yeah, it's very weird.
When the season begins at Sydney's Lyric Theatre on March 17, it will also be the start of a marathon of singing, dancing and dueling for Eramiha and Co. With dates booked through September and two roles to play, she contemplates the rigors with an eager eye. "I think after the year off that everyone had to have, I think we're all ready. It's going to be tough, but it's going to be amazing. It's like a 'finally' thing."
No doubt there are many others who are breathing similar sighs of relief (as opposed to shooting each other in a duel...hopefully).
Hamilton will make its Australian premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre starting March 17. Tickets available only through Ticketmaster.
By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.