The chances are that even if you’re not a musical theatre fan you’ve heard of Hamilton. You might not know much about it, but you’ll recognise the name.
There are polar bears in hidden corners of the Antarctic singing about not missing their shot. Somewhere on Mars an alien knows the smallest amount of American history from clips of the show he’s seen on YouTube.
It’s a phenomenon that has altered popular culture by telling the US story with a consciously diverse cast and music that is as much influenced by hip hop and R&B, as it is Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Gregory Haney performed in the original, groundbreaking production of Hamilton on Broadway. He’s now both Dance Captain and Swing in the UK production in London’s West End.
Gregory Haney tells us more about the show, and living his dream:
How would you describe Hamilton?
Hamilton is an infusion of hip hop, R&B, pop, musical theatre and love, all under one roof. It’s a story about dedication, pride, heartbreak and personal challenges. It’s about life.
Why do you think it has had such phenomenal success?
I think the show is such a phenomenon because its story is not only topical but holds universal themes. In our current political climate, Hamilton taps into the idea of standing by something you believe in and challenges you to root your legacy in something meaningful.
What made you want to be part of this show when you first auditioned in America?
Honestly, I remembered Lin [Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton] writing pieces of it while we were doing Bring It On [another of his musicals]. Then I saw the workshop and knew I needed to be apart of this show.
Were you ever nervous about trying to recreate Hamilton’s US success in London?
No, actually. I was more worried about keeping the piece truthful and clear. I’m very proud of the work done, not only by the actors but the crew and creative team. It felt very special to be part of the New York company, but there is something truly spectacular about the West End company.
You’re both a Swing and Dance Captain, what does that mean?
As a Swing I cover six different ensemble tracks. This could mean I’m playing Charles Lee on Monday, George Eacker on Tuesday or Samuel Seabury on Wednesday, depending on the rest of the cast. As Dance Captain, I’m in charge of knowing everything related to movement in the show. I watch and give notes to the company to help maintain the set choreography, run rehearsals and participate in auditions.
How do you feel about making your West End debut?
I’m over the moon! I never thought a kid from Tucson, Arizona would get the chance to both be on Broadway and in the West End. It has been a dream of mine for quite some time. It’s not everyday you get to be part of a historical show on two different continents.
What is it like to perform at the Victoria Palace Theatre?
I couldn’t be happier. Cameron Mackintosh and Clare Ferraby did an amazing job refurbishing the already beautiful Victoria Palace Theatre into a home where Hamilton can thrive.
What was your first experience of theatre?
My first theatre experience was forcing my dad to see Fame when I was 15. During the interval I leaned over and said, “This is what I want to do.” Ever since then I’ve been doing what I love.
Why is watching a live performance so special?
It’s just that, it’s live. Anything can happen. For me, as an actor, that is what makes it so special. No show is, or will ever be, the same.
What one piece of advice would you give aspiring performers?
Get your training! Understand you are going to hear many nos before you hear that yes. Keep your head up and stay positive.
What have you most enjoyed so far about living in London?
I think what I have enjoyed most are the people, Sunday roasts and its rich history. This city makes my heart smile.
What are you looking forward to experiencing while you’re living here?
I’m looking forward to getting to know the theatre community and creating work I’m proud of. I’m excited for the future of British theatre.
Which one other London show are you excited about at the moment?
What’s your top tip for a trip to the theatre?
TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! Give yourself the gift of being transported into something special that these beautiful people have created for you.