We talk to the cast members of the Hamilton International Tour about what the show and what musical theater means to the young generation.
Add Manila to the list of the greatest cities in the world! Hamilton is finally in the Philippines with the International Tour Cast—and they’ve been having a great run. The award-winning and widely-acclaimed Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in a fresh and modern way and is entirely sung- and rapped-through. Based on Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton (2004), the musical condenses Hamilton’s life, relationships, involvement in the American Revolution and subsequent political conflicts, and life-consuming desire for a legacy into 47 performances set to a blend of pop, hip-hop, rap, R&B, jazz, and of course, show tunes.
Just like that, Hamilton took the world by storm, what with its diverse cast, engaging narrative, epic music, inspirational messages, and emotional beats that have you tearing up in your theater seat.
A filmed version of the musical was released on Disney+ in 2020, and the musical has also gone overseas with shows held all over the world, from Broadway to Abu Dhabi, Singapore to Sydney. The International Tour debuted in Asia with Hamilton in Manila at The Theatre in Solaire in September 2023, with Filipina artist Rachelle Ann Go as Eliza Schuyler, Hamilton’s wife—a role she originated in the West End production of the musical.
But more than just its music, Hamilton serves as a great representation of the new generation—young, scrappy, hungry, and thirsting for change. It’s a feeling a few of the cast members of the International Tour in the Philippine staging can relate to.
From top to bottom, L-R: Elandrah Eramiha, Dayton Tavares, Emmy Saheki, Indigo Hunt, Claire Abaijah-Griffin
In an exclusive interview with NYLON Manila, Hamilton International Tour cast members Elandrah Eramiha (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), Indigo Hunt (Ensemble/Woman 2), Dayton Tavares (Ensemble/Man 1, Charles Lee), Claire Abaijah-Griffin (Ensemble/Woman 4), and Emmy Saheki (Swing) talk about the musical’s Philippine debut, its relevance to a young, global audience, and the magic of storytelling through music and movement.
Even if Hamilton‘s theme and setting revolves around US history, the show has garnered fans from all over the world. Why do you think that is so?
Elandrah: I think, the music. The music in the show is none like any other show around the world. I think this is the first show that caters to every genre of music. It’s got rap, it’s got jazz, it has classical music, it’s got funk and hip-hop and R&B, which is so unheard of in our generation, so I think it really caters to the young people and the sense of music that they actually listen to every day. And to have that in a live theater setting is actually incredible.
Indigo: I feel like, as well as the music, if we’re talking about the narrative, ultimately it is a story of an underdog, which is a pretty [universally-relatable] thing for people to connect with.
When it was announced that Hamilton was coming to Manila, many were understandably excited, including many Gen Z who scrambled to get tickets. What do you think it is about Hamilton that has endeared the show to many young people?
Emmy: I think, like what everyone said, the music, it’s relatable and…it’s a great story, like that hustle mentality and defying the odds. I think also, the casting is so diverse. And seeing people on stage that look like you and these opportunities that a lot of us didn’t have, to be able to sit in an audience and see people who you see yourself in is really amazing. I think that brings a lot of people in, and it’s very tangible and relatable.
Claire: Going off of what Emmy said as well, our generation is so…we want to relate and we want to see ourselves within that story. When I first watched this show, I was like “Oh, I can see myself as a part of that, in many different roles, not just as an ensemble or a sister or a Son of Liberty…” You feel like you can see yourself in those characters. And this generation is very…woke and understanding and we’re looking for change and shifts, and that’s what we can see within this show, that there’s something shifting. And we want to be a part of that.
For musical theater in general, why do you think it is still a viable form of entertainment for the new generation who grew up with smartphones and social media?
Indigo: I think it’s really cool, because musical theater has this ephemeral nature where you’re only there for that moment and, you know, if you miss it, you miss it. Especially in growing up in a technological era where if you put something up on the Internet, it’s there forever and you can go back and rewatch it, there’s something really special about a show and theater. And sitting in an audience with that group of people watching that production…it’s just like one of those special moments in life that I feel like is a bit rare these days.
Dayton: Yeah, you feel like you’re just like a part of it. It’s kind of like sporting events, like a football match on TV compared to being at the stadium with the raw noise and the energy, and kind of feeling like you being there that night was a reason that drove the whole performance or event forward.
Listening to music really is such a different experience from, say, watching a concert or a show.
Indigo: Yeah, it’s an experience. I feel like it would attract the Gen Z generation because those kinds of experiences are few and far between, I feel, in this life that we live [where we’re mostly] on our phones.
There’s a lot of hype and anticipation with the Manila run of Hamilton. Do you feel pressured to live up to the expectations? And if so, how do you deal with that?
Elandrah: I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I feel like because Hamilton is so amazing in itself and us just being a part of that and being part of this whole legacy of bringing it around the world—that was like an honor. I did not feel pressure at all to be a certain way or to act like the Disney+ version you know. We really brought ourselves to it, and I think because we’re so proud of what we created, we were just honored and proud to bring it all over the world. And I’m excited to see our version of it, and there was never any pressure, I don’t think.
What do you hope people take away when they watch a Hamilton show?
Claire: I hope when people come to watch here at the Solaire, that they can see a little bit of themselves up there and take away that feeling of hope, because I feel like that’s potentially the feeling that got us all here in Manila and on this show and in this job. When you leave this show, I feel like…I would love for the audience to feel like they can do something—they need to follow whatever their purpose is. Take away that feeling of hope, for me.
Elandrah: The story is literally about an orphan who becomes one of the founding fathers of the biggest country in the entire world, and that journey in itself—anyone can do anything, anyone can strive to be anything if they work hard and follow their dreams. So cliche, but it’s so true!
Emmy: And a bit of joy, I think…the beauty of doing a live show is that what happens on the stage every day—it changes because you’re connecting with people. You know, we have different people on, or those moments where we interact—those are really happening, you know. It’s not like [in] films where they’re doing cuts and it’s perfect and they’re finding one cut out of hundreds, it’s happening there and then, so I hope they take away a little bit of that joy and the happiness that we share with each other on the stage and that it’s felt [by] the audience.
How do you think Hamilton’s story and message still resonates in the 21st century?
Emmy: I feel like—Claire touched on this—there’s a lot of change and shift happening, particularly [in] our generation and the next ones coming up. Like, trying and striving for change in the world, and you know, there’s a lot going on [at] the moment globally. The story is very much [about] a man who’s defying all odds and he’s going against what everyone is putting on him, and I think that is really what we’re trying to do ultimately. I think that story really rings true to what’s happening right now in the world.
Hamilton revolves around telling important events of the American Revolution with a diverse set of characters. Why do you think it’s important for underrepresented groups to have a bigger presence in these stories?
Elandrah: You just said it—it’s important to see! [Laughs.] Before I was born, or even growing up, I never, ever saw anyone who looked like me, ever, or there was just, like, one role in the background. So now, to see people who looked like me represented in the front, like leading things, is actually incredible. And I think that’s important for someone who has so many nieces and nephews, who wants to be a mum someday, wants to see this for them. For me to be a part of that change already and to be someone who people look at [and go] ‘Oh my gosh, I look like her,’ that already is a shift and change and I’m so proud.
Hamilton in Manila will run until November 26th.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photos by Andre Cesar
Creative Direction by Gelo Quijencio
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