OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Whenever writing anything that is less than glowing praise for Hamilton, I feel I need to include a disclaimer that I love the show, so let's get that out of the way. The show itself is incredible but that doesn't mean it's infallible. While few in number, there have been various errors when it comes to running the business that is "Hamilton Inc."
Yesterday it was announced that TV Star Wayne Brady will be taking over the role of Aaron Burr in the Chicago production from January to April. While many celebrated the announcement, I was left confused and somewhat angered by the decision.
Don't misunderstand me, this is not a knock on Mr. Brady. There is no question of his popularity or talent. Given his previous Broadway credits, I'm more than positive he can handle the role. However the question remains, why bring in a well known performer for a show that doesn't necessarily need one?
Last time I checked, the Chicago run has been selling out for months. Ticket sales continue to soar and the thought of it being in financial peril of closing is preposterous. Brady's run from Jan to Apr was already sold out before the announcement. So there is no financial need to bring in a "name" to sell tickets.
Casting Brady is similar to the gimmicky or stunt casting moves we see here in NY like the "Come See TV's Blankety Blank as Billy Flynn or Roxie Hart in Chicago!" Ironically enough, Brady played Billy Flynn on Broadway.
Brady's casting also raises another issue. By giving this coveted role to a star that doesn't necessarily need it, it takes away an opportunity from an actor that does. The exposure that comes with roles in this show are opportunities that don't around often in theatre. So why not give these opportunities to the understudies, the unknowns, the performers who have been grinding away for shots like these? Why not give the role to Carl Clemons-Hopkins who has been Joshua Henry's understudy in Chicago? Why not give it to Jin Ha who also understudies for Burr and, I believe, would be the first Asian to play the role?
There hasn't been a decline in ticket sales since Javier Munoz took over the lead in New York and I doubt very much that sales would decline if either of these men played Burr in Chicago. This decision takes away a career changing opportunity and gives it to someone who doesn't need it. It's like a millionaire winning the lottery.
At the end of the day the business of theatre steers decisions like these, I get that. But for a show that doesn't need a "name" to sell tickets, why bring one in?
The show itself is fantastic and "Hamilton Inc." will continue to thrive with Brady in the role. But it would also thrive with any of the other incredible performers prepared to take on the role or unknowns looking for their chance. For a show all about encouraging people not to throw away their shots, the producers seem more than happy to take them away.