articles / Pop Culture

From Catering to Conquering Broadway

Michael Luwoye as Alexander Hamilton | Photo by Joan Marcus

Michael Luwoye, who plays the title role in the LA production of Hamilton, was suiting up for his gig on a New York City catering crew when he got the call from his agent that he nabbed the role of Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway production. He had originally auditioned for the much smaller parts of James Madison and Hercules Mulligan, hoping to appear in the Chicago production. Within a matter of weeks from that momentous phone call, he was treading the boards at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theater as Alexander Hamilton, the flawed but heroic statesman at the center of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning hip-hop musical. As part of his cramming, he shadowed Miguel Cervantes, the Chicago Hamilton. He also played the cast album of Hamilton incessantly, even while sleeping.

The cast of the “Hamilton” National Tour | Photo by Joan Marcus

Hamilton exacts great demands on its principal actors: Luwoye and the others must pull off the feat of being quadruple threats, acting, singing, dancing, and rapping. How does he stay sharp doing eight shows a week? “Sleep. Going on walks. Inhaling lots of steam. Eating certain things”, he tells me during a rehearsal break at the Pantages. Certain things like raw ginger, which Luwoye nibbles on before and even during the show on the rare occasions he’s offstage. “Then, of course, I pop a mint so I won’t put off my scene partners and the audience members who wait at the stage door after each performance!”

Gail Eichenthal with Michael Luwoye | Photo courtesy of Gail Eichenthal

The Alabama-born Luwoye doesn’t dwell on the fact that he’s a black actor playing a prominent historical figure who happened to be white. “I don’t know how to play a skin color. But I do know how to relate to a person’s sense of loss, or pride. I know how to empathize with a character’s human aspects. To go through all these complexities and intricacies of Hamilton’s character every single day, to show what it is to be a human being: it’s an amazing journey. I love to do it every single day.”

Hamilton opens Wednesday, August 16 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre and plays through December 30. Acquiring tickets is a little like finding a four-leaf clover, but the producers recently announced plans to offer forty tickets for $10 apiece for every performance. Enter the lottery or by downloading the new “Hamilton” app.

Written by:
Gail Eichenthal
Gail Eichenthal
Published on 08.17.2017