ABU DHABI: The revolution is here. For the first time in the Middle East, the popular and award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton” is being shown in a four-week run at Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi.
Worded and composed by Hollywood actor and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, the 2015 production is about the unlikely rise of US founding father and politician Alexander Hamilton.
Although the story takes place in 18th-century New York City during the American Revolution, the music is gutsy and punchy, sung in rap and hip-hop style, which makes musical theater “cool,” according to “Hamilton” music director Alex Lacamoire.
During a media lunch and sneak preview of the musical in the UAE capital, Lacamoire told Arab News: “By and large there are people who tend to feel some distance with Broadway musicals. They don’t feel like it’s for them.
“But I’ve been finding that with the power of the way Lin writes, he makes musical theater accessible, hip, crackle.”
Lacamoire and Miranda have been friends and fellow actors (on the musical “In The Heights”) for 20 years, and Lacamoire recalled the first time he heard about the idea of “Hamilton.”
He said: “I was lucky to hear Lin’s songs just after he wrote them. Lin came to my room and said, ‘hey, here’s this song that I wrote.’ It was just like a seed of an idea, and we never could have dreamed that it could have gotten to Broadway, let alone come here to Abu Dhabi.
“Anytime I see someone wearing a ‘Hamilton’ shirt anywhere in the world, it is mindboggling to me.”
Although Lacamoire had initial doubts about Miranda’s unconventional choice of music, he warmed to it.
“Everybody thought Lin was crazy. I thought it was a joke. I wasn’t sure he was taking it seriously until I heard more and more music and I realized how serious he was. He did have the confidence, he saw it, and that’s what makes him a genius,” he added.
Australian actor Jason Arrow plays the lead role of Alexander Hamilton.
He said: “It is equal parts rewarding and challenging. There’s a lot to say. Honestly, it’s keeping my brain alert that is the hard bit. In work generally, when you’re so used to something, you just switch off, which I absolutely cannot do in this part at all.”
The drama-filled story of Hamilton is a manifestation of the American Dream. The founding father, once referred to as “the original immigrant,” was born out of wedlock in the West Indies in 1757. In the newly born country of the United States of America, Hamilton became its first secretary of the treasury at the age of 32.
“The thing that surprised me the most about him was his early life, the fact that he didn’t really have a family. He’s kind of on his own, which made me find a sympathetic ear for him,” Arrow added.
There is also a feminine touch to the story in Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, played by Filipina stage actress Rachelle Ann Go.
She told Arab News: “It’s a great musical. I feel I’m never going to get tired of being part of the show. It’s like a family.”
Go previously starred in the London and Manila productions of the show.
Having recently become a mother herself, the role felt personal. She said: “She is like the heart of the show. I fell in love with this character because of the way she ended the story, continuing Alexander’s legacy.
“All the emotional depth I feel, I can now understand Eliza’s story better: Her strength and resilience, going through a lot of things, but still having that voice and grace in her. As a woman, I’m rooting for this character,” Go added.
The show has been praised for its diverse casting and bold lyrics that reflect modern politics.
“We can always speculate and say, ‘it’s the music, the message, or it just came at the right time.’ But I honestly think it just has the right amount of everything – the entertainment and different song styles – that you need, and I think that’s what’s drawing people to it,” Arrow said.
Lacamoire said: “It doesn’t matter where you live, what language you speak, at the end of the day the show has enough draw to it with exciting aspects that will hook you in regardless of what you know about American history.
“It’s not just an American story. It’s about someone who, against odds, creates a life for himself, and who doesn’t want that? People enjoy the story of the underdog.”