As the Hamilton juggernaut sweeps the nation, two performers share their experiences of going on tour with the musical phenomenon of the decade.
“Everyone is so happy to be at the show, and they are so grateful that we are in their city,” says Emmy Raver-Lampman, who plays Angelica Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s sister-in-law and soul mate, in the first national tour of Hamilton. “They did whatever they could, spent whatever they could, to get the tickets, so the energy is always crazy. It’s amazing to go out there every night and have an audience that is just so excited and so ready to see a show that they have been waiting for now for almost two years to see,” she adds. Observes Rory O’Malley, who gives a star turn as King George III in the production: “You definitely feel the electricity when you walk out on that stage. It’s a wonderful gift.”
The two actors, each of whom has a different history with the show, are wrapping up the Hamilton engagement at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco and are eager to embark on the second leg of the tour, which takes them to the Hollywood Pantages in Los Angeles starting August 11.
Raver-Lampman has been a part of Hamilton since it opened on Broadway in August 2015. She started as a member of the ensemble. “We all knew that the show was going to be amazing; we all believed in it and thought it was great piece of art,” she recalls. “But no one was really ready for what happened — it just kept building. The ticket sales, then we won a Grammy for the album, then the president invited us to the White House. It was such a whirlwind, and it kept getting more and more extreme. And then the Tonys. It still feels like a dream.”
O’Malley joined the Broadway production in 2016. “I really parachuted down into the most exciting moment in recent theater history and got to be a witness to it — a show that I had seen, I was already a huge fan,” he says. He did have prior experience of being in a huge Broadway hit show, having originated the role of Elder McKinley in The Book of Mormon and completing two years on Broadway in the Tony Award–winning musical, the hot ticket in town until Hamilton came along. But there was a difference, he notes: “With Hamilton, we have 7-year-olds come to the show and sing my song back to me. That couldn’t happen with Mormon; they would have been too young to see the show because of the language.”
When Hamilton began an open-ended run in Chicago last fall, Raver-Lampman joined that new company, playing an ensemble cast member and also understudying the Schuyler sisters. Then she got the offer to play Angelica — the Schuyler sister Hamilton didn’t marry but remained the closest to — in the national tour that kicked off in San Francisco last March. “You know, we are all in this business because we want to be on stage, so a part of me always hoped I would play Angelica one day, but I was content with where I was with the show. I was completely caught off-guard when they asked me,” she reports. “It’s a testament to the Hamilton creative team and the family that I have made over these past two years — they love and want to support their people; promoting from within is something that they want to do because they truly believe that they have cast the people who have the potential to lead a company. I am so honored and also grateful. It’s truly a dream come true.”
“Angelica is exactly the kind role model that I think a lot of women have now,” Raver-Lampman continues. “She is strong and independent and outspoken, does things against the norm and says what’s on her mind. To embody that and do it every night is really empowering.”
O’Malley is playing the same role that he took over in the Broadway production. “King George III is definitely a unique role,” he says. “I’m basically a one-man show with other people in it. That’s how George sees everything,” he explains. “It’s a brilliantly written part. From the moment people enter the theatre they are told to turn off their cellphones by me, King George, and I say to them, ‘Welcome to my show!’ That gets the first laugh of the show before anything has even started. So when I come out, there is already an anticipation toward my entrance. Sometimes actors say that roles change you, and I never have really believed that until now. This one definitely has changed me as a person.” O’Malley continues: “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to embody someone with the ego of King George III — to walk out onto this huge stage and own it in that way. This has given me a lot more confidence — but I think wearing a crown will do that for you too!”
Raver-Lampman has now been with Hamilton off and on for two and a half years, and so far, she’s played to audiences in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. “I think the message of the show and its relevance has not changed; that was always very pronounced and in the front. I just think the way the show is being perceived, and the way certain moments in the show are heard and understood, seem a little different now,” she observes. “For instance, the line ‘Immigrants, we get the job done,’ that was in the show four or five years ago when they were doing workshops, and it always got a reaction. But now with everything that has been happening in the world, there is prolonged applause every night; the audiences just go crazy when they hear it. I think the show has always been very forward and very fresh, and it will just continue to be relevant for a long period of time.”
“The best part about being in Hamilton — and this is not just me being syrupy-sweet — is getting to meet the young people who are coming to see the show,” says O’Malley. “Because that was me when I saw Les Miz when I was 8 years old in Cleveland. When that show came to town, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life — to be in shows like that, stories with music on the stage. So it’s just a real full-circle moment for me to meet these kids who know every single word of Hamilton and get to see that we are inspiring the next generation of theater artists.”
For both actors, the next stop of the tour, in Los Angeles, has great personal resonance. “My dad is from the West Coast, so I’ve always wanted to spend a significant time in L.A.,” says Raver-Lampman. “I am looking forward to going to a different city and seeing how we do there, to get a different energy and a different vibe and also have more time to let this role sink in, to find new ideas, and continue to let it get richer and more in my body.”
“I’m so excited to get to L.A. because that is where I live with my husband,” says O’Malley. “It is really my ‘coming home’ because that is also where I got my Equity card, where I had my first job, at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank. The show has really changed a lot for me personally from New York to San Francisco, because the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York has a thousand seats less than the theatre in San Francisco. My scene partner for the show is the audience — I am talking to them the entire time that I am on stage. So gaining a thousand more people to talk to definitely changed my performance — the response is so much bigger. I think the Pantages in L.A. is even bigger than the Orpheum in San Francisco, so basically what I am saying here is that I’m really going to get to ham it up in L.A. and I’m looking forward to it!”
Photos by Joan Marcus.