The Hamilton phenomenon began expanding beyond Broadway this past October by setting up shop at Chicago’s PrivateBank Theatre. It’s also set to tour the U.S. later this year before expanding to London’s West End, but it feels like its fabric is going to change in the meantime. Not the show itself, mind you, but the kind of names it attracts. SNL’s Taran Killam plays King George on Broadway starting January 17th, and the same date will see Whose Line Is It Anyway? alum Wayne Brady debut his Aaron Burr in Chicago.
Brady, who also partook in Broadway productions of Chicago and Kinky Boots, will replace Joshua Henry for a twelve week limited run as the damn fool who shot Alexander Hamilton. Ordinarily this would be something we’d discuss in the context of drawing in new revenue, but good luck getting at-cost tickets in any city the show is playing in. Killam and Brady are fantastic actors, each suited to the roles they’ve been cast in (Brady’s musical segments on Whose Line were a major highlight each week), but I can’t help but wonder if this means we’ll see more folks from film & television end up in the show in some form.
There’s certainly no dearth of Hollywood stars headlining their own shows on Broadway, but the allure and mainstream success of Hamilton may end up attracting bigger names than anticipated. The uptick in quality television has been attracting more and more movie stars to the small screen (where it was once considered a lesser medium) and Hamilton being the biggest Brodway breakout in recent memory makes a similar trend feel likely. That’s a value neutral observation, at least to my mind, as lesser known actors will still be cast in these roles and get to understudy the big guns, but it's an interesting development nonetheless.
Oh, and if you’re worried about some new version of the show not living up the original cast (be it their voices on the album or their stage presence), don’t be. As much as Aaron Burr was Leslie Odom Jr.’s role to create, it was current Broadway Burr Brandon Victor Dixon’s role to inherit and bring new dimensions to. And like Dixon’s sly and reserved take on the notorious VP (compared to Odom Jr.’s unrelenting intensity), I’m sure Brady and his balls-to-the-wall energy will find new layers to the character.
These roles will live on and it’s going to be fun to see who their shoes are filled.