DUBAI: “Hamilton,” the global phenomenon that is Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit stage musical about one of America’s founding fathers and his greatest nemesis, is set to hit Abu Dhabi this month.
Captivating fans around the world since it first burst on to the stage in 2015, “Hamilton” has received an array of accolades including 11 Tony Awards, seven Olivier Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.
The musical’s first international tour — with a cast drawn from productions all over the world including Broadway, the North American tours , London, Australia and Germany — recently wrapped up their three-month stint in Manila and are headed to the UAE.
Speaking to Arab News ahead of the show’s Jan. 17 premiere at Etihad Arena, DeAundre’ Woods — who plays the main anti-hero of the story, Aaron Burr — says that the musical, despite telling a very American story, is at its heart a universal one.
“This is a story about humanity. This is a story about love and forgiveness and flawed people who have been called upon to work together. And I think anywhere you go, you will find someone somewhere who has been through a lot, has been hurt or is sort of being tested in a way that they didn’t really understand at the time. And a big theme in the show is, ‘Let me tell you what I wish I had known.’ If you think about it, I’m playing a role of a man who literally owned my ancestors. And that is a really, really very heavy thing for us as African Americans to come on to the stage knowing that at this point in history, we weren’t even considered human beings,” he said.
“And that just kind of just speaks to the evolution of humanity. And I think that’s all it is. It’s like you do the best with what you don’t know. And then you reflect on that knowledge and try to be better and share what you’ve learned along the way. And that is what this show is teaching us — how to be a better person,” he said.
Burr, an American politician, businessman, lawyer and freedom fighter, is a historical figure who is remembered for his famous personal and political conflict with Alexander Hamilton, which culminated in the Burr–Hamilton duel in in 1804. Burr mortally wounded Hamilton, who died from his wounds the following day.
When asked what was most challenging about playing the character, Woods said: “It’s hard to do stillness in theater, especially musical theater. But also, restraint is one thing that I’ve learned as person. The show is so fun. And the audience is cheering along, and yes, it’s like a global phenomenon. It’s this huge, bright moment within this box. It is very glamorous, and we’re dressed in these beautiful threads and the melodies and harmonies are so lush. So, the hardest thing for me is to be restrained within the character and not fall into the love I do have for the show.”
With several actors having stepped into Burr’s shoes after Leslie Odom Jr. originated the anti-hero for the original run of the show, as well as the Disney+ piece, Woods said that he connected with the character on a deep level.
“Having also played the character of Hamilton previously, I know what it means to really go for something, to put your all out and to not leave anything behind. And that’s sort of the edge for me. But Aaron Burr has his own thing,” he said.
“And so, as much as he seems restricted and restrained to the audience and to his peers, Burr is very active within this circle that he’s created for himself, and I feel like it really drives my sort of attitude and the dynamics of relationships I have with people. And I’m also religious. So, I grew up as a believer, and I know what it’s like to sort of serve something higher than myself. And it’s very, very spiritual journey for me. So, I would say that, I think — I don’t know because I’ve never seen myself — but I believe that I capture a very profound and a very engaged sense of this rock. I really try to capture Aaron Burr’s strength. This story could have been about Burr. Had he not been involved in this cage of trying to protect this legacy, this story could easily have been about Burr as the hero and not Hamilton.”
Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, “Hamilton” packs 46 unforgettable tunes, one upstaging the next.
When asked to pick his favorite song from the musical, Woods selected “Dear Thedosia,” a song featuring the characters of Hamilton and Aaron Burr, as they both speak to their respective children.
“The first time I heard it, I was just so moved. It is just also well built and it is a beautiful moment. These two men who couldn’t be further away or going further apart and here they are trying to express a feeling that they didn’t get to experience as children, the experience of having their fathers there, and now they are fathers themselves.
“I get teary sometimes because I think about my grandparents. My grandmother — who passed away — I always think about her. She kind of gave me this curiosity of music and singing. And I think of that line in the song, ‘One day you will blow us all the way,” and I think, “Oh, wow, she’s not gonna see this.’ But if she was here, maybe this would be the moment she’s like, ‘Well, you did it.’”