Hamilton fantasy cast: who should star in the Australian production?

Gather round, musical nerds, as we pick the leads for the local production of the blockbuster musical. Warning: no Millsy

Hamilton is the rare musical that makes its way into the pop culture consciousness. Its cast recording (produced by Questlove) had the highest debut in the Billboard charts since 1961’s Camelot recording dropped at #4, and the stars from Hamilton’s original cast have been popping up in film and TV ever since. (Creator and the originating lead, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself has since written a Disney princess anthem and starred as the spiritual successor to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins Returns.)

The blockbuster show, which traces the birth of America through rap and hip-hop, has since gone on to acclaimed openings in London and Puerto Rico, and this week the Australian premiere date was announced – March 2021 at Sydney’s Lyric theatre, after what one can only imagine was an epically expensive bid from the state’s tourism body – with local casting briefs to go out next month.

Much of Hamilton’s success comes down to Miranda’s oft-quoted vision to tell the story of America then, through the eyes of America now. Miranda littered his score with references to his hip-hop idols Mobb Deep, DMX and Notorious BIG, but more importantly he cast the show to look like the New York of the 2010s: his Broadway, West End and touring casts are stacked with people of colour.

It’s expected that the Australian cast will be largely local, with Indigenous Australian performers in many of the leading roles. So who could play these now-iconic roles in Sydney 2021? We had a stab at fantasy casting the production.

Alexander Hamilton: played by Ryan Gonzalez

Original casting description: “Eminem meets Sweeney Todd”
Played on Broadway by: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton on Broadway (l), and Australian Ryan Gonzalez as Usnavi in the Hayes production of In The Heights.
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton on Broadway, left, and Australian Ryan Gonzalez as Usnavi in the Hayes Theatre production of In The Heights. Composite: Getty Images/Lightbox Photography

Gonzalez is a musical theatre performer with leading-man chops for days. He can carry a cast with his swoony voice (he recently played Frankie Valli in the Australian tour of Jersey Boys), but it’s his role as Usnavi from the Hayes Theatre production of In The Heights – Miranda’s first Broadway composer/performer credit – that seals the deal for us: he can rap, dance and fill those big LMM shoes without us missing the man himself for a second.

Eliza Hamilton: played by Jessica Mauboy

Original casting description: “Alicia Keys meets Elphaba”
Played on Broadway by: Phillipa Soo

An unstoppable performer and beloved part of our pop culture, from Australian Idol and the Young Divas to Eurovision and the Saphhires, Mauboy has a killer voice and that rare quality: you look at her and like her instantly. It’s a perfect advantage in playing the strong, loving Eliza. Plus, like Eliza, Mauboy already has a song called Burn. She’s prepared! And she’s got love!

Angelica Schuyler: played by Zahra Newman

Original casting description: “Nicki Minaj meets Desiree Armfeldt”
Played on Broadway by: Renée Elise Goldsberry

Renee Elise Goldsberry (left) and Zahra Newman (right)
Renee Elise Goldsberry, left, and Zahra Newman, right. Composite: NBC/Daniel Boud

Can Zahra rap? Let’s hope so, because this gifted, in-demand actor has the range to play the ferociously intelligent, witty Angelica – and the pipes to back it up. She won hearts and awards in The Book of Mormon, and right now she’s bringing crooning to Tennessee Williams, playing Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for Sydney Theatre Company. If Zahra was compelling us to “include women in the sequel”, like Angelica does in The Schuyler Sisters, we’d do it.

George Washington: played by Jay Laga’aia

Original casting description: “John Legend meets Mufasa”
Played on Broadway by: Chris Jackson

Our pick: Presence, presence, presence. That’s what you need to play George Washington, and Jay Laga’aia has it in spades. He’s played the Wizard of Oz in Wicked, performed in all manner of plays and musicals, and with eight children and a career making children’s music and presenting Play School, he’s basically Australia’s dad. Who better to teach a nation “how to say goodbye”?

Aaron Burr: played by Dan Sultan

Original casting description: “Javert meets Mos Def”
Played on Broadway by: Leslie Odom Jr

Leslie Odom Jr. as Burr, and, on the right, Dan Sultan
Talk less, smile more: Leslie Odom Jr as Burr, and, on the right, Dan Sultan. Composite: Getty Images/AAP

Talk less, smile more. That’s Burr’s credo, and Dan, with his great looks and smooth as caramel voice, can sell the epithet. With a bundle of Aria awards – and musical experience in the film cast of Bran Nue Dae – how could we not pick him to sing the anthemic, show-stopping Wait for It – the song so coveted as a cover it went to Usher himself on the Hamilton mixtape.

Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson: played by Zindzi Okenyo

Original casting description: “Lancelot meets Ludacris”/“Harold Hill meets Drake”
Played on Broadway by: Daveed Diggs

Daveed Diggs, who plays Lafayette in Hamilton; and Australian hip hop artist and entertainer Okenyo
‘Lancelot meets Ludacris’: Daveed Diggs, who plays Lafayette in Hamilton; and Australian hip hop artist and entertainer Okenyo. Composite: Invision/AP

This Sydney-based actor and artist has done everything from Shakespeare to Play School, and it’s both her charm and her ease making beats (she’s behind the buzzy Woman’s World) that we think makes her a perfect fit for this flashy, lyrically dextrous role. Plus, who says all the founding fathers need to be played by men? Zindzi performs with generosity, authority and agile humour; plus, she could really pull off Jefferson’s purple suit.

John Laurens/Philip Hamilton: played by Marty Alix

Original casting description: “Nas meets Elder Price”/“Tupac meet J Pierrepont Finch”
Played on Broadway by: Anthony Ramos

You might know Anthony Ramos as “Ally’s friend” from A Star is Born, but he’s been in the cast of every single one of Miranda’s musicals, starting with the role of Sonny in In The Heights. So we’re tapping Alix, the charismatic young performer who just nailed the role of Sonny at the Hayes Theatre and the Sydney Opera House, and won hearts in the Hayes Theatre’s production of Spamalot too.

Hercules Mulligan/James Madison: played by Briggs

Original casting description: “Busta Rhymes meets Donald O’Connor”/“RZA meets Zach from Chorus Line”
Played on Broadway by: Okieriete Onaodowan

There are no other options. We want Briggs, the rapper, writer and performer in this scenery-chewing, laugh-getting, smooth-moving dual role. Check out his latest single, Life is Incredible, and tell us we’re wrong. You can’t.

Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds: played by Karli Dinardo

Original casting description: “The Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child”/“Jasmine Sullivan meets Carla from Nine”
Played on Broadway by: Jasmine Cephas-Jones

Originally from Melbourne, Karli understudied the role of the youngest Schuyler sister in the American national tour of Hamilton, before returning home to win hearts as the stormy Anita in West Side Story for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. She’s a star in the making.

King George III: played by David Campbell

Original casting description: Rufus Wainwright meets King Herod in JCS
Played on Broadway by: Jonathan Groff

This is a great supporting spot for a croony, goofy performer with genuine star power. The King is only onstage for about nine minutes, but those nine minutes go a long way, with Beatles-infused petulant pop. Campbell could sing the part standing on his head (or balancing a really heavy crown on his head, as he needs to here) and win the crowd over.

• The Australian production of Hamilton opens at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre in March 2021


Cassie Tongue

The GuardianTramp

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