Jared Dixon had the same head-scratching reaction to “Hamilton” as thousands of others when he first heard about it.
“Like a lot of people I didn’t get it,” Dixon told the Herald. “The early casting posts were going out on Playbill and they just said something like, ‘Hamilton, a rap musical about the founding fathers.’”
“I just didn’t know what was going on,” the actor added with a laugh.
Now “Hamilton” is a global sensation with 11 Tonys and a Pulitzer Prize. And Dixon is playing Alexander Hamilton-rival Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” which stops at the Opera House between Jan. 17 and March 12.
A veteran of Boston’s theater scene who graduated to national tours of “The Lion King” and “The Color Purple,” Dixon gets it now – he fell for it hard once the Original Broadway Cast Recording came out in 2015. He even has something radical to say about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece.
“It’s almost under-appreciated at this point,” Dixon said.
“Hamilton” tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton, patriot, revolutionary, nation builder. It also transforms his life into an extended metaphor about the contemporary struggles of disenfranchised citizens and the moral imperative we have to join together and fight for justice. The subversiveness out in the open – actors of color play the Founding Fathers, the musical touchstones range from Gilbert and Sullivan to Public Enemy – and yet it is a classic musical so it relies on humor, love, finely choreographed movement, huge vocal harmonies, and a grand narrative arc to succeed.
But Dixon isn’t (just) talking about it from the fan’s perspective. He’s talking from his experience as an actor.
Dixon recently played Simba in “The Lion King” – a role he called “the hardest role in the Black, male theater canon in terms of physicality.” But Burr, and many other roles in “Hamilton,” come with their own epic challenges.
“The [thematic and lyrical] density of ‘Hamilton,’ what is required [lyrically] and dramatically of the actors, you really have to be on your toes the entire three-hours of the show,” Dixon said. “This show requires something that other shows across the board just don’t require.”
“It’s a juggernaut,” he said with a laugh.
If that’s not enough, Dixon plays Burr – a complex character with a dash of Iago’s envy.
“The role avails itself to so much nuance,” he said. “Every night I can focus in on different details to highlight different parts of Hamilton’s life, his world, while I can also highlight Burr’s outsider’s perspective. (The character) has a really beautiful way of showing us that we live our own lives but we are also spectators to others’ lives while being all connected in some way.”
“But it’s also a cautionary tale about comparison, about jealousy,” he continued.
Dixon plays the underrated role in a – somehow – still underrated musical. He, like thousands of others, now gets it. And his mission is to sell even more people on “Hamilton, a rap musical about the founding fathers.”
For details and tickets, visit boston.broadway.com
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