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The Hoosier Connections To Hamilton

Hamilton is more Hoosier than you think. Here are nine ways Indiana folks played a supporting role in Broadway’s biggest smash hit in decades, touring through Indianapolis this month.

Indianapolis launched Leslie Odom Jr.’s career. Well, sort of. The performer, who won a Tony for Hamilton, did his first-ever solo show at The Cabaret in 2013—two years before his role as Aaron Burr sent him into the stratosphere. He’ll be back in town next month at Hilbert Circle Theatre.

You can spot a Hoosier in the Hamilton national tour. Indiana University and Lutheran High School of Indianapolis alum Julian Ramos is a “swing” in the touring Broadway production that stops by Old National Centre December 10 to 29. That means he’s understudying a bunch of different roles—six, to be exact, from cowardly general Charles Lee to James Reynolds, the husband of Hamilton’s mistress (Ramos’s favorite part).

A 25-year-old southsider has sung with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Roncalli High School grad Jordan Donica, who cut his teeth at Footlite Musicals in the Herron-Morton neighborhood in shows like Rent and The King and I, played Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in the first Hamilton national tour in 2017. The budding Broadway star also shared a stage with Hamilton creator Miranda in a Camelot concert at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater in March.

A Schuyler sister got her Equity card in … Warsaw, Indiana. Karen Olivo, who played Angelica Schuyler in the first Chicago production of Hamilton, earned her Actors’ Equity card after doing a summer-stock show at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts in 1995, winning her the right to act on Broadway.

A 2007 Notre Dame grad held down the fort on the first national tour. As associate director, Patrick Vassel trained new cast members, offered notes to actors, and sat in on show after show after show to ensure the production’s quality.

Hoosier composer Cole Porter came in clutch. Miranda tweeted about drinking from Porter’s chalice during a visit to Yale University in 2011—a full four years before Hamilton’s smash-hit success. You could say he soaked up the “Anything Goes” composer’s creativity via cup.

Could an IU guy’s skateboard skills have inspired the next Hamilton? Miranda and his son attended a Broadway production of SpongeBob SquarePants in 2017 that featured former IU student and Salem, Indiana, native Kyle Matthew Hamilton ripping off trick after trick. Hamilton recalled to NYSkateboarding.com that Miranda tracked him down after the show and exclaimed, “Skateboard guy! You were awesome!” The Hoosier presented Miranda’s son with a set of miniature wheels. “Hopefully his son will grow up loving skating, follow in his dad’s footsteps, and develop his own skateboard musical,” he said. “That’d be so sick!”

In November 2016, Vice President-elect Mike Pence walked into the Richard Rodgers Theater for a Friday-night show to a mix of jeers and cheers, according to news reports.Courtesy AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

One Hoosier stopped the show. But not in a star-is-born kind of way. When newly elected Vice President Mike Pence attended in 2016, passion bubbled up throughout that performance, with a standing ovation for the line, “Immigrants—we get the job done,” and wild applause for a couple of villainous King George’s verses: “When people say they hate you” and “Do you know how hard it is to lead?” After the performance, Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor playing Burr that night, dashed back onstage to read a statement on behalf of the show, expressing hope that the show had inspired Pence to work on behalf of “a diverse America.”

Shots fired! Pence didn’t respond, but not surprisingly, President Trump had a few choice words on the subject the next day on Twitter, demanding an apology. Word is, he’s still waiting.

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