On vacation in Mexico in 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda read a biography about one of the lesser-known founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Miranda’s creative mind started whirring with the chrysalis of an idea that would turn into a musical that would change lives.
To describe Hamilton as a brilliant musical is lacking somehow. There is simply no way to fully describe the musical that has won too many awards to mention, bought entire new genres of music to the theatre world, and changed perceptions about history, cultural heritage, and even politics.
Marty Alix was barely out of their childhood when Miranda had that epiphany on vacation, and they couldn’t possibly have understood how it would change their own life one day.
Alix graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in 2017 and after some lauded performances, including in Miranda’s own, In The Heights, they found themself in their first major, commercial stage show. Taking on the dual role of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, they have the chance to create their own little piece of history, as Hamilton comes blasting onto the stage in Sydney, later this month.
Auditioning for a musical that has become one of the greatest of all time would be daunting to many. But then the musical has that ability to cross divides and relate to people on a variety of levels. It jumps through the generation gap and keeps running. It is history that is told in a modern language – hip hop and rap music, the kind of language young performers are well versed in. “It’s music that I’m super familiar with … so I did feel confident doing that in the auditions, “ Alix explains.
Photo Credit: Lisa Maree Williams
Alix went through a gruelling audition process that took months, but that thankfully took place before COVID19 hit our shores. After the year that was in 2020, where a pandemic hit theatres as hard as it did everything else, Alix doesn’t mind that the rehearsal process involves mask-wearing, signing in, and weekly tests. They are just thrilled to be working;
I couldn’t be more grateful just being able to work in my profession and being able to do this again …
Thrilled too that the show will go on, even if not for them, the original creative team of Alex Lacamoire, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Thomas Kail have been video conferencing with the Australian cast, sharing their wit, wisdom, and passion for the show.
Like with most things where Hamilton is concerned, rehearsals have not been typical. The focus is not on being a carbon copy of the original cast, “it is more about finding the essence and spirit of the character in the actor that they are looking for. So they really encourage your own individuality within the role,” Alix explains with something akin to awe in their voice.
One of the recurring things they have been telling us is that you just bring yourself and who you are and how you are on any given day to the performance or to the rehearsal and that’s enough, Alix says.
Playing both characters is a particular hallmark of the show, with opposing arcs in each act. Alix finds it an interesting process and can’t quite name a favourite of the two characters, but does say that “Laurens is definitely more of a challenge and figuring out where the fight is in that character.”
As Alix searches for the fight in Laurens, they find it in themself. “The beautiful thing about Act 1, when I’m playing Laurens, I’m on stage all the time. So there really isn’t like a second moment to think about the mistakes I made in the last song or … something I messed up. It doesn’t stop. It’s really nice to find it in my body physically instead of having to think about it.”
Their dream to become a performer cemented for him after watching another person of colour, Lea Salonga playing Eponine in Les Miserables. “It’s one of those things where you only see the possibility of something when you see representation of it outside of yourself,” Alix says, recalling that if not for Salonga, they may have never appreciated that they could pursue a theatre career.
It is not without a beautiful sense of irony that Alix found their inspiration to pursue their dream by watching someone they could relate to, and now they finds himself in the musical that has become the epitome of representation in the theatre world, “I’m forever in debt to Lin for creating these opportunities”.
The tables can now be turned as Alix himself can be that example for others.
What excites me is young people coming to see the show and seeing that it is possible and there is a future in THIS.
There could be volumes of discussions about the appeal of Hamilton. The music, the portrayals, the history. It can sound like a bit of a cliché when you suggest that a show is successful because of its universal themes. At first glance, it is difficult to see. But there is much more to Hamilton than just one man’s story, or even one country’s story.
Alix sees immigration as a predominant theme in Hamilton and believes it is just one thing that appeals to so many people. “… there is an underlying message of one love and also to fight, and fight for what you believe is correct and right and just, and to do that out of love … despite your circumstances.”
Audiences expect to be wowed by Hamilton, and this cast certainly won’t disappoint. The commitment and drive flow off Alix in waves. Whatever the audiences expect from the show, or what they might think the show is about, there is always room for more.
Sydney will be the only place on earth Hamilton will be playing, the lucky city will be the envy of the world. As audiences flock to watch what will be an incredible show, it is telling that Alix has more to say about the audience than himself and their own abilities. They have missed the theatre over the last year and coming together of audience and cast, “and going through a show that you didn’t necessarily know anything about and coming out and have this experience that touched you in some way that they might not have even intended for it to. That is the experience. It is for yourself and I’m just excited for the audience to have that for themselves.”
Hamilton presented by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furmna, The Public Theatre, and Michael Cassel.
Sydney Lyric Theatre – Preview March 17. Season starts March 27
For tickets visit Ticketmaster.com.au