Phenomenon is a noun used to describe very specific, often remarkable events. Given the buzz Hamilton has created in both the theater world and popular culture, we think it’s fair to call the musical a phenomenon.
“It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s so hard to explain. It’s once-in-a-lifetime,” says Erin Clemons, who will portray Eliza Hamilton when the award-winning show comes to Bass Concert Hall May 28-June 16. Judging by how quickly tickets sold for the three-week run (within about an hour of going on sale, only single tickets were available), Austinites are anxious to see what this Hamilton buzz is all about.
Clemons herself had a tough time explaining it, but says part of the wide appeal is its progressive variety of music, a mix of rap, R&B, pop, hip-hop, and more traditional musical theater-style tunes. She also says there’s something fascinating about viewing historical events through a modern lens — especially for those who are not normally musical fans.
“People get bored with what they’ve seen before. I think because it’s so different, audiences are very engaged from the start,” Clemons explains. “It’s nonstop action. The stage rarely stops moving, and I think people are blown away by that.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock and are not familiar with the subject matter, Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of this country’s founding fathers who was at George Washington’s side during the Revolutionary War.
Alexander Hamilton takes several actions that cause his wife, Eliza, great pain. Clemons says playing the character has taught her the power of forgiveness as Eliza learns to forgive her husband for his mistakes.
As Clemons explains, there’s even a line in the second act song “It’s Quiet Uptown” that resonates with her: "Forgiveness. Can you imagine?"
“That lyric is so simple, but I think so many of us walk around needing forgiveness or needing to say ‘I’m sorry’ to somebody, and we may never get that," she says. "That moment is just so beautiful and shows that no matter what you’ve gone through, you can always forgive someone or tell someone you’re sorry and move on and be well.”
Clemons has clearly been moved by her involvement in Hamilton (she also understudied several roles in the Broadway show) and says she looks forward to going to work every day. “It’s a very integrative cast. You’ll see lots of different nationalities on stage which is not typical for theater.”
She adds, “Being a woman of mixed race, I love coming to work and looking around and seeing people of all races playing these amazing characters and people of color playing these iconic wonderful roles. It’s so rare that we get to do that in this theater world, and it’s such a blessing.”
So, what exactly is Hamilton's formula for worldwide success?
“I really do think that audiences like surprises, and when they sit down to Hamilton, it’s nonstop engagement and surprises," says Clemons. "And what’s better in life than spontaneity and getting to see something new?”
Hamilton will run at Bass Concert Hall May 28- June 16. If you weren’t able to get tickets during the initial sale, you may still be in luck. There is a digital ticket lottery during the Austin run offering 40 $10 tickets for each performance. Check here for more information.