Theater / Film

As ‘Hamilton’ tour rolls into Miami, three South Florida natives are part of its history

Written By Guillermo Perez
March 11, 2024 at 9:11 PM

Raised in Miami, Cuban-American and New World School of the Arts graduate, Alex Lacamoire, has been with the production of “Hamilton” from its inception as arranger, orchestrator, coach, and conductor. (Photo courtesy of the production).

From the spark of its concept to red-hot stagings, “Hamilton,” a musical about American history, has been making theater history of its own since 2015. And South Florida talents have helped propel that success from the start, with Alex Lacamoire—a Miami-raised Cuban-American and New World School of the Arts graduate—prominent on the team.

The national touring company of “Hamilton” comes to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami opening Wedneday, March 13 and running through Sunday, March 24.

The biographical, political, and social strata of the mountain that is “Hamilton” are cemented by mold-breaking dramatic elements. Most striking has been the casting of African-Americans as War of Independence leaders and—rap in prominence—today’s musical idioms taking possession of a revolutionary spirit. The championing of racial and cultural inclusivity trumpets the message that all folks—to echo a standout song in the musical—should see themselves in the rooms where history happened.

From left, Warren Egypt Franklin, Desmond Sean Ellington, Elijah Malcomb, and Pierre Jean Gonzalez in the national touring company of “Hamilton.” (Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy of the production)

As the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda—a New Yorker of Puerto Rican background who already had a breakout hit about el barrio with 2005’s “In the Heights”—“Hamilton” has let Latinos lay claim to the very American musical from the get-go.  In 2016, Lacamoire—arranger, orchestrator, coach, and conductor, and all-around master at turning notes into the molecules of sonorous stage life—won a Tony Award for best orchestration and a Grammy Award for best musical-theater album for “Hamilton,” the teamwork enthroning him alongside author Miranda and other collaborators as a 2018 Kennedy Center Honoree.

“My introduction to ‘Hamilton’ was when we were working on ‘In the Heights’ and Lin-Manuel came into my dressing room to tell me about the opening number,” says Lacamoire. He praises Miranda’s bull’s-eye aim in a 2009 performance—with Lacamoire at the piano—of selections from the musical-in-formation at the White House during Obama’s presidency. Nerve-racking? You bet. But the arranger holds that memory among his dearest.

But that was just the beginning of Lacamoire’s thrill ride. “My favorite part in mounting a production is the beginning,” he confesses.  “At rehearsals for a Broadway show, you’re in there for eight hours a day, six days a week. I like that immediacy of working with singers. An hour ago they didn’t know how a song would go, and then I’ve helped them learn it. I love it when I create a vocal arrangement and get the chance to hear it back from them. Bringing something from your computer into the real world is very special. I thrive on it.”

Musical arranger, orchestrator, coach and conductor Alex Lacamoire won Tony and Grammy awards for his work on “Hamilton.” (Photo courtesy of the production)

Such agency is not lost on Buenos Aires-born, Miami-raised Emmanuel Schvartzman, since 2019 music director of “Hamilton” in the current tour. He says, “Though my favorite song from the show depends on what I’m going through in my life, I always tell my friends that ‘Yorktown,’ with the line that immigrants get the job done, always resonates with me.”

“Yorktown” refers to getting ready for the decisive 1781 battle in Virginia which handed final victory to the revolutionaries. It features commander Hamilton, born in the English Caribbean island of Nevis, and the Marquis de Lafayette, among French allies of the American cause. But their going into the unknown, stresses Schvartzman, and achieving through drive and skills success against all odds characterizes not just personages of record but also the legions of workaday warriors who, coming from elsewhere, realize the promise of their adopted land.

The company of “Hamilton.” The national tour comes to the Arsht Center from Wednesday, March 13 through Sunday, March 24. (Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy of the production)

“My family has the typical immigrant story,” says Schvartzman, who arrived in Miami when he was 7 years old.  “We had little of what others enjoy. So I had to prove my worth. But that fire in my belly helped a lot. When musicals were introduced to me, they were like an all-American game. I wondered if I was really going to do this, knowing we have to be twice as good just to be accepted.”

But Schvartzman also thinks the vibrantly resurrected protagonists and tumultuous period in “Hamilton” can connect with us all—a universal humanity of foibles and virtues, triumphs and loss, reflected in the song list.

Honoring the baton Lacamoire passed to him, Schvartzman keeps the road show in impeccable pitch. “We wear a lot of different hats,” he says. “Our job is 33 percent being a really good musician, 33 percent being a good manager, and 33 percent being a good person.”

Emmanuel Schvartzman, a graduate of Coral Reef Senior High School and FIU, has been the music director on the tour of “Hamilton” since 2019. Here he’s shown with fellow Miamian Alex Lacamoire. (Photo courtesy of the production)

Like Lacamoire, Schvartzman cultivated his artistic side early on in the local community. “I did theater all over South Florida, where I learned what a musical is,” he says, lauding magnet-school Coral Reef Senior High School and Florida International University, where he earned a master’s degree in classical piano. “And my family’s quite artistic—my mother being an actress. I was always begging her to take piano lessons. My most memorable childhood moments included playing keyboard in my aunt’s studio—plain little melodies I’d teach myself.”

When a friend asked him to pitch in as pianist for a high school musical, Bach, Beethoven and their brethren stood aside for Broadway tunesmiths.  From then on, Schvartzman says, “There was no turning back.”

Throughout his career—starting as assistant music director for “On Your Feet,” the Gloria Estefan jukebox musical—Schvartzman has recognized the importance of harmonious relations on the job.  “That’s a big deal when we manage people on tours since we can’t be home everyday, going together from airports to hotels, city after city. My tasks include making sure everybody is in a good place. But that’s easier with this level of professionals who know the game.”

According to drummer Quinton Robinson (a.k.a Q), born in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami and now Atlanta-based, Schvartzman “provides the show’s connective tissue.”  In a musical that’s particularly percussion-driven, Robinson sees himself as the quarterback and the music director as head coach. The Miami Northwestern Senior High graduate, educated at the University of Miami has spread his own spicy South Florida jam throughout the nation as a pit player on the tour.

Quinton Robinson, who was born in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, is the drummer with the national tour of “Hamilton.” (Photo courtesy of the production)

Nearing 500 curtain calls, Robinson asserts, “Every night is a new show,” his love of theater binding him to Schvartzman and Lacamoire with South Florida roots.

Gold-starred on his resumé, work on the Motown musical “Ain’t Too Proud” landed him the “Hamilton” gig. No wonder his favorite song on the show is “My Shot,” with the lead intoning, “Hey yo, I’m just like my country/… , scrappy and hungry / And I’m not throwin’ away my shot.” Be assured, beat by beat, Robinson hits every musical target.

WHAT: “Hamilton”

WHEN: 1 p.m. Thursday, March 14, Sunday, March 17 and 24; 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16 and 23; 7 p.m. Sunday, March 17 and 24; 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, March 13 through 16, and Tuesday through Saturday, March 19 through 23.

WHERE:  Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

COST:  $39, 49, $59, $69, $89, $99, $109, $129, $139, $159, $169, $179, $199, $209, $229

INFORMATION:  (305) 949-6722 and arshtcenter.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Dont miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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