By Ryan Lee Gilbert, national editor of broadway.com
Alex Lacamoire is the music supervisor for the Broadway, Chicago, and touring productions of Hamilton, as well as the co-arranger—along with Lin-Manuel Miranda—of the show’s score. In 2016, Lacamoire won the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for Hamilton. He’s been involved in the show’s conception and success from the very beginning.
Broadway.com: What goes into making sure the touring production of Hamilton is just as powerful as the Broadway production?
Lacamoire: We have a great lead producer in Jeffrey Seller, who’s committed to making the show the best experience it can be, so we’re well staffed and well supported. Our director Tommy Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and I are all very hands-on. We’re rehearsing right now with the touring company, and we’re around to make sure that the quality of the show is maintained and preserved and that it’s as strong a show as it is on Broadway.
B: How often are you in touch with creator Lin-Manuel Miranda? What are his concerns about the tour?
L: Lin’s away in England right now filming Mary Poppins Returns, so we don’t see as much of him as we used to back when we were making the show. But Lin is able to trust us. We’ll go to him if there’s something that needs his eye or approval, but he doesn’t stress about details in that sense. He leaves that job to us. He’s feeling really good about it.
B: What do you look for when you’re casting actors in this show?
L: It’s a variety of things. We’re not looking for a particular kind of person or ethnicity to play any kind of role. When we do casting, people come in singing specific songs from the show that we’ve prescribed because I’ve found that there are no other songs out there that really let me know people are right for Hamilton other than music from Hamilton. I need to actually hear them on the material to see how the fit works. It’s not, “Oh, we’re looking for someone who can rap really well,” or “We’re looking for someone who can hit a high B.” We’re looking for someone who has the qualities that pertain to the character that we’re trying to fill.
B: Having seen the show so many times, what still moves you?
L: I still see new things that I had not seen before. The end of the show always gets me. If I let myself sit back and enjoy the show, I still cry in the final moments. And this is me having seen the show…a lot. It still hits me. Hamilton is one of those shows where there’s so much happening that you can get lost in it and you can see it multiple times and still find something new to appreciate and admire. May that never be lost on me.
B: How surprised were you to see Hamilton become a cultural phenomenon? To what do you attribute its gigantic success?
L: Before we had our first performance off-Broadway, I said to Tommy, “Listen, I know this show is amazing, and I know Lin’s writing is the best I’ve ever heard and I’m so proud of everything I’ve done on it, but are people really going to come see a show about American history with a lot of rap in it? Are people going to be into it? Are they going to get it?” And he was like, “Yes, Alex, they’re going to get it.” He always knew, but you still have your doubts because the show is so different, and the lyrics go by so quickly, and the style of music is so different than what is expected in the theater. You can’t go in setting out to make a hit, you just have to make art and be proud of what it is that you do. The rest will take care of itself. You don’t have control over what the audience reaction will be; all you can do is focus on your work and make the art the highest quality that you can.
B: In time of political unrest in America, what do you hope Hamilton brings to the cities it’s traveling to?
L: I think good theater opens up your eyes and makes you look at things in a way you hadn’t before. Hamilton celebrates inclusion, diversity, harmony, and what it takes to build something, for us to pull together, for us to have passion, and push for what we believe to be right. I hope that that unites people and brings all of us closer together.
B: If you could choose one thing for people to be thinking about when they walk out of seeing Hamilton, what would it be?
L: I’d like for them to appreciate what it took to mount the show from a craftsmanship standpoint. My hope is that people will see it and be like, “Wow! That’s really difficult to do and it’s wonderful to see that people were able to come together and create something like that as a unit.” It’d be great for people to be excited about musical theater and see how Lin-Manuel Miranda is elevating the game in terms of the quality, appeal, and scope of the art form. I hope people get an appreciation for what theater can do.
HAMILTON plays the Aronoff Center February 19 – March 10, 2019 as part of the Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati series presented by TriHealth.