‘Hamilton’ Maestro’s Process an Open (Song) Book
This article, written by editor-in-chief Tim Baker, and other articles on the Broadway phenomenon are featured in Special Edition of Newsweek Hamilton.
Alex Lacamoire is easy to talk to. He smiles, nods and says “big question”. When he exhibits a musical challenge, his eyes light up and his mop of tangled curls hops and sway. He is infallibly laudatory about everyone involved in Hamilton, from Lin-Manuel Miranda to company actors in the new touring cast. Sitting across from him, the only thing that would alert someone to his role as Miranda’s musical right-hand man and conductor of Broadway’s most famous show in a generation is the complex passion for the music he finds. different ways of expressing with almost all new sentence. But behind the gentle manners and the equalizing smile hides the musical brain behind the two. In the heights and Hamilton, the man who takes Miranda’s musical ideas and unwraps them in thunderous scores that combine the classic musical tradition of the Great White Way with so much pop, R&B and (since Miranda sparked love of the genre in Lacamoire almost a decade ago) hip-hop, in something the theater world yearned for – something entirely new; something that excites theatergoers as well as veterans and jaded Broadway critics.
This is why it seems a little too humble when Lacamoire describes himself as “the traffic controller” of Hamilton. Because while it is true that Lacamoire took over for almost all the shows until Labor Day – his replacement, now in charge of the pit, provided one performance per week before Lacamoire left to concentrate on Chicago companies and Hamilton tours – this is only true in the figurative sense. There is no conductor’s baton in the Hamilton pit â Lacamoire’s hands are a little busy playing the demanding keyboard parts of the musical to worry about a stick. He conducts largely, as high school drama teachers do, with his head nodding to the nine-person pit orchestra below him and to the actors on stage above him. . It helps that he arranged the music himself and knows it better than anyone on the planet, but if Lacamoire’s position can really be compared to that of a traffic controller, he is more like the ‘one of the programmers responsible for keeping every traffic light in a city in sync than just a traffic cop.
And his duties on stage are only a fraction of his involvement in the musical phenomenon of the forgotten founding father. In fact, since the very beginning of Hamilton, when it was still just an idea for a mixtape. âWhen Lin read Ron Chernow’s biography, he was inspired to create music for her,â Lacamoire begins. “And the best way to describe [the impulse] is that it was based on Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a concept album before it was a play. Same with Evita. It would allow people to listen and experience the story, experience the lyrics, experience the music on its own, and be able to jump from moment to moment without necessarily having the connective tissue between things. Lacamoire the opportunity to perform at the White House in 2009, at the very beginning of the Hamilton phenomenon.
After the White House performance, in which Lacamoire played each of the 10 different roles on his own, director Tommy Kail suggested Miranda expand the Hamilton concept of a two-act complete one-piece mixtape. So, as Miranda wrote her lyrics and musical themes, it fell to Lacamoire to unravel this raw material into refined musical charts that would be used by her pit orchestra as well as by the cast. And the more the couple wrote, the more they realized that there was still more to write. âThere was a point where we thought we were going to be a more traditional musical book,â says Lacamoire, which means there would have been a dialogue between the written music. âAt one point we tried a workshop with a writer and had scenes between songs. We found that whenever we weren’t in the music, the energy didn’t hold up. [was decided] so that the whole thing is completely composed and is music from start to finish. I think it really makes the play something special that way. This did not add a small amount of work to the Lacamoire process, however. seamlessly in the two stunning numbers when each band member would play hard and more sparse arrangements when the vocals on stage contain a little more exposure.
“One of the clues Lin gave me at the start was that he wanted the ropes Hamilton what were the horns to be used for In the heightssays Lacamoire, referring to the raucous Latin-inspired section of winds in Miranda’s opening piece, which added a lot of local color to the show. âI thought to myself, ‘OK, In the heights was a pop or latin rhythm section with a bunch of horns. So i thought Hamilton should be a pop / rhythm section with a bunch of strings. We tried to ask: what were the instruments of the time?
With his orchestra of 10 musicians, Lacamoire’s work begins in earnest. His people were in place, so the fine tuning could begin. In some cases, this fine tuning has taken years. Lacamoire was very open about its multiple speed bumps by composing “The Schuyler Sisters”, HamiltonâThe Destiny’s Child themed issueâ is breathtaking. But in other cases, the progression from the nascent graphic to the finished product has been more natural. Lacamoire is particularly proud of the evolution of the song from Act 2, “It’s Quiet Uptown”.
âIt’s an arrangement and an orchestration that comes from me naturally,â said Lacamoire before returning his due to Miranda. “In the same way that this composition came out of Lin in a very natural way – he wrote this song in one day. There weren’t a lot of changes in the lyrics or the structure.” It is the treatment of these different types of progressions that posed the most powerful challenge to Lacamoire, and the one towards which he feels the most responsible.
Over the Labor Day weekend this year, Lacamoire took his place half above and half below the stage for the last time. He was not fed up Hamilton and he wasn’t ready to move on – in fact, it was quite the opposite. He’d come out of the pan and back into the fire of building a show from scratch devoting his time and energy to Chicago and Hamilton’s traveling productions, trying to coax new nuggets of brilliance from the music that he and Miranda created. In fact, the reinterpretation of the Hamilton The idea appears to be Lacamoire’s next big challenge (to say nothing of Kail and Miranda), and Lacamoire couldn’t be more excited to face it. “The wonderful thing about the way Lin writes is that he didn’t write the part of Hamilton for himself, âsays Lacamoire. âHe wrote a role. It is a role that he is capable of playing and that is what he is. But I thought it was really wonderful for people to see our wonderful back-up at the time, Javier MuÃ±oz, playing once a week very early on. It was great for people to see that the show wasn’t about Lin-Manuel Miranda and that it was bigger than that. This is why I am very excited about this casting. These people look very different, sound very different, and feel very different than the people on Broadway. It’s not because we’re trying to find another Renee or trying to find another Daveed; we’re just trying to find another Angelica and another Jefferson. This is a principle that Lacamoire also brings to his own role, even if he does not leave his place in Cabinet anytime soon.