Fun Facts and Easter Eggs to Look Out for in 'Hamilton'
To celebrate the Sydney reopening, we sat down with two of the Australian production's stars to discuss the hidden gems to watch out for throughout the show.
Are you the type to get so deeply engrossed in something you’re watching, you need to know all the behind-the-scenes secrets and easter eggs (that is, the hidden references and inside jokes) ASAP? Then, you’re going to love Hamilton.
Right from the get-go, Lin-Manuel Miranda and his colleagues wrote and produced Hamilton to include a range of macro and micro symbols throughout — many based on history and the relationships between characters.
We spoke to Australian cast members Victory Ndukwe (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) and Marty Alix (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton) to gather some of their insider knowledge on this multifaceted show. If you haven’t already nabbed tickets to the show at Sydney Lyric Theatre, this insider knowledge may just be the deciding factor. And if you do have tickets, prepare to get a lot more excited to experience the magic.
Just like your backyard on Easter Sunday, Hamilton has plenty of delicious easter eggs to discover. Some are easier to spot than others so we, with the help of Ndukwe and Alix, have a few to let you in on.
One vital character, which is not explicitly named in the show, is the role of The Bullet. Played by an ensemble member, this character represents death and foreshadows Alexander Hamilton’s (Jason Arrow) passing, among others. “It’s always near Hamilton and dancing near Hamilton,” says Ndukwe. “[It’s] with him all through his story and eventually is the one that hands him his death”.
Consider yourself a bit of a history nerd? Well, the use of historical documents and pamphlets, Alix remarks, “are written into the show almost verbatim”. Actual letters between Eliza Hamilton (Chloé Zuel), Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler (Akina Edmonds) have exact phrases and quotes added into the lyrics. For example, the line Angelica sings to her sister Eliza in ‘Helpless’, “If you really loved me, you would share him” was taken almost directly from correspondence between the sisters in 1794. See also: “You’ve married an Icarus, he has flown too close to the sun” from ‘Burn’.
Alix also shares that in ‘Farmer Refuted’, the pamphlet that loyalist Samuel Seabury reads (well, sings) from, Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress is essentially the real historical document put to music.
Ndukwe revealed all the documents that are handled during the show as props — including the letters and pamphlets — are actual letters that have been written. “The props are crazy”, he says. “Super detailed!”
The entire production of Hamilton is filled with emblematic elements referring to certain times, places and concepts. For instance, in ‘The Room Where It Happens’ when Aaron Burr jumps on the table, the tablecloth is pulled out from under him, representing his decision to switch political parties to advance his career.
The symbolism not only includes the stage, music and characters, but also the set. As Ndukwe reveals, “I don’t know if people know this, but the backdrop has a few different symbols as well. It not only symbolises different places but different stages in time as well. So, the stage might be New York City and the surround might be Virginia”.
For Alix, one element he finds particularly interesting is the rotating stage floor, made up of wooden turntables to represent a passage of time. “I was thinking about how much the show focuses on the idea of time and the idea of the things that we achieve and the legacy that we leave behind in a lifetime,” says Alix.
He continues, “But, also, the tragedy of aspiring to and trying to achieve but not being in the present moment, which is what I think Hamilton struggles with a lot”. Ndukwe, laughing, adds, “We also finish the show singing ‘time’ over and over again”.
Another element that Alix particularly likes is the staging of the show and how the characters are situated around each other. “For example,” he says, “Female Five, one of the female ensemble members, is always near Burr, [which] they hypothesise is Theodosia. So, even if it’s just something in the background, it’s just the cleverness of the way the show was created from the get-go.”
Despite the original Broadway cast of Hamilton being globally renowned for their roles in the show, the production has seen many reiterations of casting – including in Australia. And each new cast member that joins the show is encouraged to make the role their own.
“They really wanted to see our individuality, which is part of the reason why they workshop it so much in the auditions,” says Alix. “They didn’t want a carbon copy of what Broadway was. It was great on the first day of rehearsals seeing everyone and realising this show is going to be a little bit different, and our version of it.”
Eliza’s final moment to finish off the show is a good example of this. The character looks out into the audience, clutches her heart and gasps. It’s said that the meaning of the gasp is left intentionally vague and up for the interpretation of each actor who plays Eliza. Whether that’s transcending time and seeing the audience (as Phillipa Soo who played Eliza in the original Broadway production theorised) or it’s representing seeing and being reunited with Hamilton in the afterlife. Whatever the case, in the Australian version, the final moment is left up to Chloé Zuel’s interpretation.
What is certain, though, is that Hamilton is a show teeming with fun facts, easter eggs and enough symbolism to blow you away. We’ve really only covered the tip of the iceberg here, so if you’re not satisfied *wink*, check out our Bluffer’s Guide to Hamilton or pick up a copy of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book Hamilton, The Revolution. No matter how many times you see it, there’s always something new to spot.
‘Hamilton’ reopens at the Sydney Lyric Theatre on Tuesday, October 19. Final tickets are now on sale through to February 27, 2022. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster.
Images: Hamilton, Australian Production, Daniel Boud