“At this moment, I am in Hamilton rehearsal,” says Joshua Henry as he hops on the phone with Playbill.com to discuss tonight’s The Last Five Years concert. “I just got off the stage as Aaron Burr.” He had been rehearsing “The World Was Wide Enough,” the number capturing the duel between Burr and Hamilton. He catches his breath, impacted but energized as he nears the end of a day of rehearsal.
The two-time Tony nominee (The Scottsboro Boys, Violet) begins performances, September 27, as Burr in the opening company of the Chicago production of the Tony-winning Hamilton. The role earned his friend Leslie Odom, Jr. a Tony and is now being played by another close friend, Brandon Victor Dixon, on Broadway. “I did one of my first shows with Leslie in 2007,” says Henry. “I’ve known them for years. The fact that Brandon and I, who literally just worked together [on Shuffle Along…] are carrying the torches here in New York and myself outside of New York, it feels really special.”
More than that, Henry sounds overjoyed to be a part of what he calls “my favorite show, period.”
“I say that very easily. That’s not even a ‘Hmmm,’” he says. “In The Heights was my favorite show, so hip hop is something that’s really close to my heart, but aside from the hip hop, there are so many wondrous things about it.”
What excites Henry most is the man he will embody come the end of the month. “What a guy,” he marvels. “I’m fascinated by him, and I’m in awe of the material that I get to perform in the show. I get to show so many shades of myself as an actor.”
Henry even introduces a bit of new insight to the role. “[Burr] goes from this reserved, determined guy—who plays not to win, but plays not to lose—to this guy who ends up going for broke. He meets someone who just sees the world completely differently, and it starts to affect him, and throughout the night we see how he, in my opinion, transforms into Hamilton,” Henry purports, “but he doesn’t quite get the whole thing, and then he goes over the edge. It’s a wild, wild ride. I’m having so much fun trying to unlock him and inhabit him.”
Chicago audiences are eager to witness him and the rest of the cast, as evidenced on social media. “People are flipping out—with a capital OUT,” he says. “We might as well be like, I’m not going to say the Beatles, but the Beatles.”
Knowing they will be received with full houses and open arms, to say the least, puts this production in a different perspective for Henry. “We just have to show up and do our job and do what the creative team has prepared us to do,” says Henry. “[We have to] be ourselves and not try to duplicate anything that’s happened before, but just do what we do.”