The most buzzworthy show on planet Earth is coming.
That’s right, the national tour of “Hamilton” and all of its modern musical glory is making a multi-week stop in Virginia.
It owns the Altria Theater stage in Richmond starting Nov. 19 and runs Tuesdays through Sundays until Dec. 8.
The stint comes after the show’s run in Philadelphia, which is the home of Founding Father and the show’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton. By all indications, the cast is pumped to keep the historic city run alive in the state where so many other Founding Fathers worked and played.
Among those historical big-wigs at the forefront of the show is our very own George Washington, who, as you know, called Fredericksburg his boyhood home.
“I did quite a bit of research on George going into this show and it continues,” said Paul Oakley Stovall, who portrays Washington in the production. “I have the book, ‘Washington: A Life’ on my bedside table in every city we go to. With this tour leaning on the eastern side of the country, it’s so cool to know he’s walked the streets here.”
At its core, “Hamilton” follows the Founding Father’s journey from being a West Indies immigrant to serving as Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and, ultimately, America’s first treasury secretary. It’s billed and delivered as “the story of America then, as told by America now.”
After first hitting Broadway in 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking show took home 11 Tony Awards, including best musical; the Grammy Award for best musical theater album; and even the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
In addition to the touring show’s dashing scenery, catchy hip-hop-meets-pop tunes and so much more, it’s stories like Stovall’s that continue to make “Hamilton” so compelling. First, like many of his lead “Hamilton” counterparts, he is not white, adding yet another thought-provoking component.
The Chicago native’s prior acting credits include the national tour of “Rent,” as well as TV roles on “The Chi,” “Empire” and “Shameless.” Prior to joining the cast, he had actually left acting for a while and served two terms as an associate within the Obama administration. He says he wasn’t necessarily looking for an acting gig, but it just happened and he’s glad it did.
“I thought my time had passed and, aside from my work in politics, was mainly into playwriting and producing,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for this, but it has really been life-changing. It has meant everything. And, I’m not going to say this is ‘one last hurrah,’ but, to have a role like this at this point in my life is something.”
As for Stovall’s thoughts on Washington now that he’s in his second year of portraying him nationally?
“He had great humility,” said Stovall. “He also put the country before his ego and was the consummate team player. I hope people don’t just learn that about [Washington], but I hope people can see that in themselves and see that it’s a good way to go.”
Aside from the awesomeness that comes with playing Washington on the biggest stage in the theater world, Stovall also enjoys hearing George-related insights from fans.
“People have had some really great stories for me,” he said. “For example, when I was recently in Newport, R.I., and someone was telling me, ‘Oh, you have to go to this table at White Horse Tavern because that’s where he dined.’ I’m really excited to get to Richmond and Fredericksburg, to once again be inundated with great stories.”
Speaking of Fredericksburg, there’s a “Hamilton” ensemble member who knows it quite well. Robbie Nicholson was born at Mary Washington Hospital and attended Chancellor Elementary, Middle and High schools.
At age 14, the dynamic dancer was scooped up and landed on Broadway in “The Music Man.” Since, he’s appeared in “Cats” and “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway, as well as shows like Radio City’s “New York Spectacular.”
“I’m very excited to be back in Virginia and know a lot of my friends and family will come see us,” said Nicholson. “Also, in cities like Philadelphia, D.C., and surely Richmond where there’s such a strong tie to the show, the audiences have been even that much more into it.”
In addition to his work in the ensemble, you’ll have to keep a lookout for what Nicholson says is one of his bigger moments: a duel with one of the principal characters as Gen. Charles Lee.
Beyond the show’s local ties, there is so much more to take in and enjoy. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself.
“I feel like the secret sauce, in terms of what Lin-Manuel Miranda has constructed here, is actually a very traditional American story and heroes’ journey,” said Stovall. “For all its hype with hip-hop, actors of different races playing Founding Fathers and more, you have three comrades, a love story and it just touches people at their core. This has been done for a new generation ... and provides us with a way to bond in a new and different way.”