The Broadway phenomenon that is HAMILTON is back in Crescent City. This epic and historic reimagining of Lin-Manuel Miranda is currently on at the Saenger Theater until July 10. As one of the most impactful musicals to ever hit the helm, the question isn’t so much are you going, but when are you going. BroadwayWorld.com sat down with Alexander himself, Edred Utomi, to talk about his role as one of our founding fathers.

Tell me about your theatrical journey and how it led you to achieve this iconic role.

I started acting professionally after graduating from the University of San Diego in 2015. I did a lot of shows in San Diego regionally for about five years; Once on this island, Big River, Shrek the Musical. I’ve done a lot of musicals in five years. I got my equity card and decided to move to New York to try. I was quite young, it was 2017-2018, and I was in New York for a very short time, and I had an audition for the HAMILTON series. They needed an immediate replacement for the reserve role who would know Washington, Burr and Hamilton. And I auditioned, and I booked it. Booked it Feb 1 and debuted as Hamilton [on] March 13.

Is this a dream role for you?

You know, I never thought I’d play against Hamilton. I thought I would be on the show at some point. I thought I would be Lafayette/Jefferson or something, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be touring the country as Hamilton himself. So it’s a dream come true in every sense of the word.

How did you feel when you realized your dream had come true?

It was wild. I had been in New York for about a month when I got the call, and had been auditioning for the past two weeks. And I didn’t tell my family other than my brother, who lived with me, just because I didn’t want to jinx it. It’s the kind of thing where it’s like, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to Hamilton.’ Everyone I had known who had been there before had been there seven or eight times. You know, it was my first real time in the room, so I was like, ‘I’ll keep it close to the vest, I won’t tell anyone, I’ll just see what happens’ and when I got the call, I was blown away. I knew it would turn my world upside down. Honestly, it was one of the best days of my life, and it was the culmination of everything I had worked for and my family, who had sacrificed themselves and worked for me to get where I was. So, it was quite a moment, not just for me but for my whole family.

How do you personally connect with Hamilton?

You know Hamilton is an immigrant, and my parents are immigrants, and so I think I felt through my understanding of the role through my parents. My parents came here from Nigeria with three children, then had two more; I am the youngest of five. And they came here not knowing anyone, but they came with a dream…and they showed us the hard work and determination how far they can take you. So when I think about the role, Alexander Hamilton is a person who is very concerned about the legacy. It’s a theme throughout the series, and I think it’s one of the dominant things that my parents unknowingly instilled in me. We haven’t talked about legacy as a concept, but it’s the idea of ​​how you want to be remembered, how you should treat people on a day-to-day basis, things like that. I think the way I connect to him comes from my roots. I definitely connect to the fact that he wanted to do something before his time was up, which I think we can all connect to.

What do you think of Hamilton’s character arc throughout the series?

Utomi: I think it’s very human. He starts out as the new kid in town, is very sparkly and shiny, and everyone wants to understand what he’s talking about, and he brings new energy to their culture. The way the show is done, everyone is stuffy to some degree, and it comes like a bull in a Chinese store. And he has to learn a bit of their ways, and they have to understand his way because he makes them understand.
But by the end of Act I, he’s achieved everything he was trying to achieve, and you want to think of it as “oh this guy is a superhero”. But the higher the rise, the longer the fall. I think at the end of the series he’s humbled…he starts to take missteps on the way to greatness the same way he’s always been ambitious. His ambition is starting to bite him a little in the butt. I think it’s a really interesting arc… but ultimately, Legacy is the totality of your entire existence on earth. It’s not just your bad times; it’s not just your good times. The question is, essentially, who is telling the legacy? In the end, do the cons outweigh the pros, or do the pros outweigh the cons?

What kind of character work did you do before you started rehearsals?

I learned this role, and when I originally learned it, I also knew, in my head, that I was about to learn Washington and Burr. It was cool to examine why they were different, especially with Hamilton and Burr, because sometimes they seem so similar; they are really two sides of the same coin. So I think that’s kind of the first way my understanding of him came about, but over the years my process with him really encapsulated the heart of the story that we’re trying to tell with this character, and then it’s all filtered through hip hop too.

So I think the heart of the story is a rags-to-riches story, which is the American Dream. It pulls you up by your boots, as some say. This idea of ​​starting from nothing and becoming something… When I understood that, all my choices filtered into the fact that it was a hip-hop show, so I had to integrate the element and hip-hop culture in the role. And also filtered through my understanding of what an immigrant goes through when they arrive in a new country. I think it was my process to break it down from moment to moment in the show. How would an immigrant react to this line? How would they live this moment? It was my first attraction to him. I saw so much of my parents in him and the struggle to be more than who you are, and they certainly did, so it was really easy for me to connect with him because I saw the beginning and the finished product of it all.

What are the expectations that come with the role and how do you approach them?

This question has changed a lot throughout my time at HAMILTON. I think now my expectation is just to give an honest picture. I am not Lin-Manuel Miranda; I’m not going to make an impression of Lin-Manuel Miranda, or any other Hamilton you see. I think it’s just about telling the story that we try to tell as a company as sincerely and honestly as possible every night. It’s the wait for me. I’m a perfectionist, so I have my own things that I want to intentionally hit every night and things that the audience may not see or understand or pick up on. I want to tell my story as faithfully as possible. I want people to be moved and to question their own lives. I want it to be a cathartic experience, whatever the audience needs in telling this story of this great but also flawed man as sincerely as possible.