By Regina Sienra and Donna Lowe
Hamilton (Definitely not the city in Ontario. The big musical that made Broadway cool again) has broken records, indeed, but one of its biggest achievements is bringing rap and hip hop to new audiences who may not have seen its potential as a marvellous and diverse art form.
Despite its very American story – the musical depicts the United States’ Founding Fathers after all– people from all over the world have been mesmerized by the music and the spirit of Hamilton. Of course, that includes Canada.
Inspired by the rumours about a Toronto production opening sometime in the near future, the success of the Original Cast Recording — the album hit #1 on the Billboard Rap chart, only to be dethroned by Drake’s Views — and K’naan attending the show and hanging with the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, we decided to created our dream cast of Hamilton with amazing Canadian rappers and singers. A show with a cast this stacked could get even the most vociferous opponent of musical theatre onboard.
Buck 65 as Alexander Hamilton. The musical’s namesake was a prolific, yarn-spinning, ambitious, creative force. Hamilton hustled his way from Caribbean orphan to US Treasury Secretary and right-hand man to George Washington. Rich Terfry, the rapper/storyteller/CBC host from Mount Uniacke, N.S., seems like a logical choice to fill this Founding Father’s shoes.
Shad as Aaron Burr. In contrast to Hamilton’s impulsiveness, his rival Aaron Burr was cautious, reflective, and measured — while equally intelligent — and Shad has the serious demeanour that seems to be needed for the role. The London, Ont., rapper has a long career in spot-on, strong rhymes, and his new project has brought further proof of his vocal ability, which is needed for big numbers like “The Room Where it Happens.”
Basia Bulat as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda has described Eliza’s role as “pure goodness,” and projecting that is something Basia Bulat does with ease. Her beautiful and haunting voice, added to her powerful performances, fit Eliza’s emotionally-charged songs perfectly. Just listen to “Burn” from the Original Cast Recording and Bulat’s “It can’t be you” one after the other and you’ll see what we mean.
k-os as Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson. This dual role requires a big personality — someone with rapid-fire rap skills, charisma to burn, and an instant aura of respect onstage. Who better than k-os, who has fearlessly spoken truths about being a rap artist in Canada since 1993.
Cadence Weapon as George Washington. The trailblazing poet laureate from Edmonton recently wrote for The Guardian about the adversities and the hope of putting hip-hop in the spotlight, which in the beginning meant defying the stereotype of Canadian identity. With a career that spans more than a decade, Cadence Weapon has become an authority — you might say even a “presidential” voice — not only in Canadian rap, but anywhere.
Kinnie Starr as Angelica Schuyler. Powerful, smart, sensible. Those are some of the adjectives that describe Angelica, the oldest of the Schuyler sisters, and they’re equally appropriate to describe Kinnie Starr. The Calgary singer who mixes hip hop and rock in her music is very vocal about her Aboriginal heritage and her political stances. She never backs down, and neither does Angelica.
Luke Lalonde (Born Ruffians) as King George III. With a cameo performance that doesn’t even hit the 10-minute mark, the sassy King George nonetheless makes audiences laugh their heads off by taking himself way too seriously — leading to nothing being serious at all. This character gets three 60s-like, Beatles-esque pop songs, and Luke Lalonde would deliver them extraordinarily well.
Def3 as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton. The Saskatchewan rapper has a fresh and youthful sound, just like these two characters — Laurens is Hamilton’s friend and confidante in Act 1, and the same actor plays his son Philip in Act 2. Def3’s Latin American ancestry and the bundle of “charisma and good looks” make this choice even more fitting.
Odario Williams (Grand Analog) as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. This double role has “sidekick” qualities — in Act 1, Hercules is one of Hamilton’s entourage and in Act 2, Madison is Jefferson’s right-hand man, but to reduce these parts to the sidelines is unfair. Both parts require versatility, a broad skill set, and the talent to own a name that you can’t imagine without, as Miranda told The Rolling Stone, “picturing Busta Rhymes saying it.” We think Odario is up to the task.
Lindi Ortega as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds. The powerful Jasmine Cephas-Jones – who also plays two roles during the show, as do many other cast members – truly shines in the part of the plot-shaker Maria Reynolds. The sexy character who seduces Hamilton (resulting in America’s first sex scandal!) really requires a sexy performer, and Lindi Ortega would not only provide a marvellous interpretation, but she would also offer new perspectives to the soul/R&B-influenced score.