February 16, 2016

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Watching Hamilton Perform for the Grammys -- and Win -- in the Room Where It Happened (Sierra Tishgart, 2/16/16, Vulture)

The cast of Hamilton perform onstage during Hamilton's performance for the 58th Grammy Awards at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on February 15, 2016 in New York City. Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage
"The whole point of a play is that it's not on TV," says Daveed Diggs, who plays both Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton. "It's live, and it's really hard to create that and have it feel that way." Yesterday, though, it had to be: At about 9:30 p.m., the Grammy Awards telecast cut from L.A. to the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and the cast leapt into a performance of the show's opening number, "Alexander Hamilton," as the cameras swooped and bobbed among them. I spent the afternoon on Monday watching as the cast and crew of Hamilton rehearsed to do just that -- blocking, staging, framing, and preparing to introduce their smash hit to 25.3 million viewers.

The Grammys don't often feature a musical act that's not live onstage. (The last time in memory that this happened was when Amy Winehouse couldn't secure a work visa in 2008 and appeared via satellite from London.) "Before this, the Hamilton cast had never performed a number on television, period," says producer Jeffrey Seller. "We made an early decision that we would not be able to do justice to our production by taking it out of this theater. So when the Grammys originally expressed interest in our performance, we politely declined. We said, 'We can't get to L.A., we just won't look good on your stage, and we won't be good enough.' It was the genius of the Grammys and producer Ken Ehrlich, who said, 'What if we come to you?' That was an idea we couldn't help but be enthusiastic about: a number on TV, but in our own theater. The best Presidents' Day gift ever!" Musical director Alex Lacamoire was so sure a performance wouldn't happen that he had already purchased his plane ticket to Los Angeles.

Next came the decision of which song to perform. Lacamoire says that "The Schuyler Sisters" was a strong contender "because it's fun and girl-centric," but that the Grammys producers requested the show's opener, "Alexander Hamilton," instead. The Hamilton team was onboard: "We don't believe in medleys," Seller says. "We believe in giving people a substantive chunk. Given that this is our first television appearance, it made so much sense to introduce America to our show with the beginning of our show. And of course there's that lovely rhyme, in that this was the first number Lin[-Manuel Miranda] performed from Hamilton, at the White House."

Posted by at February 16, 2016 5:42 PM

  

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