Lin, Phillipa and Leslie: The Pre and Post-Hamilton History

Special Features   Lin, Phillipa and Leslie: The Pre and Post-Hamilton History
After dedicating years of work to the show that sent their careers skyrocketing, what comes next for the departing stars of Hamilton?
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On July 9, the Broadway juggernaut Hamilton is losing three of its major stars, including the show’s creator and titular player, Lin-Manuel Miranda; Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. a Tony winner for his performance as Aaron Burr; and Phillipa Soo, Tony-nominated for playing Eliza Hamilton, who the American Founding Father called the “best of wives and best of women.”

Playbill is auctioning off one pair of VIP house seats (two tickets, orchestra row E) for the July 9 performance of Hamilton with 100% of the proceeds from the auction benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Actors Fund.

The Charity Buzz auction runs through July 5 at 3 PM. Click here to bid!

Before the trio of actors take their final bows, we take a look at where they were before Hamilton and the plans they’re making for the future.

Phillipa Soo
Pre-Hamilton: Shortly after graduating from the Drama Department of The Juilliard School in 2012, Phillipa Soo was cast as the starry-eyed Natasha in Dave Malloy’s romantic epic Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, inspired by a 70-page slice of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Her dazzling performance as Natasha left audiences enrapt as she stood in a moonlit column of snowfall to perform one of the musical’s most-loved songs, “No One Else.” Critics raved, and The New York Times singled her out as “luminous.”

They weren’t the only ones who took note. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda also caught Great Comet during its run, tweeting, “Took the missus to Natasha Pierre tonight. Phillipa Soo is a star.”

Director Thomas Kail also caught her performance in Great Comet, and in December 2013 (while she was still starring as Natasha), Soo was asked to play Eliza Hamilton in a reading of Hamilton’s second act. The role was hers from then on. Soo received the Lucille Lortel Award for her performance in Hamilton’s Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater, and was Tony-nominated for her work in the Broadway production.

What’s Next:
While Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 will transfer to Broadway this fall, Soo will not be returning to the show. She’s reuniting with Miranda for his new Disney animated musical Moana, due out later this year. She will return to Broadway in spring 2017, starring in the title role of the new musical Amélie, based on the Oscar-nominated French film.

Leslie Odom Jr.
Odom Jr.’s track to stardom has been long in the making. He made his Broadway debut at the age of 17 when he joined the Broadway cast of Rent in 2000. He later played a featured role in the short-lived 2010 Alan Menken musical Leap of Faith on Broadway. Numerous television appearances followed, including CSI: Miami and Vanished. Odom Jr. also received national attention for his musical talents as Sam Stricklad on NBC’s Smash. However, his character was promoted to a starring role just as the series was canceled in 2012.

In 2013 he was approached by Miranda to play Aaron Burr in an early workshop of Hamilton. (He had previously seen a developmental presentation of the show—titled Hamilton Mixtape—at Powerhouse Theatre the summer before and was immediately taken by the material.)

Odom Jr. heavily pursued the role of Burr throughout the show’s development, and when it came time for the Off-Broadway run at the Public in the winter of 2015, he was already signed to the NBC television drama State of Affairs. In a bold and rare move for an actor, Odom Jr. asked NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt to be released from his contract for State of Affairs in order to follow Hamilton Off-Broadway. Greenblatt, a theatre fan who also helped get Smash and live musicals on NBC, obliged.

Odom Jr.’s performance as Burr, a mix of swagger, strut and flat-out Broadway showmanship, turned him into a bona fide star. He won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, edging out Miranda, who was also nominated in the same category. (Don’t feel too bad for Miranda, he took home a handful of his own Tonys that night, including Best Book, Best Score and Best Musical.)

What’s Next:
Odom Jr. hasn’t revealed what’s in store following his July 9 Hamilton departure. His self-titled album, Leslie Odom Jr., a blend of show tunes and jazz classics, was just released on S-Curve Records.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Pre-Hamilton: Before he made Broadway history by re-framing American history with hip-hop, Lin-Manuel Miranda was best known as the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist and star of the 2008 Broadway musical In the Heights. That Broadway project was born and developed during Miranda’s days at Wesleyan University. Among his classmates and collaborators was In the Heights and Hamilton director Thomas Kail.

Miranda kept busy following In the Heights, working along Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents to translate lyrics into Spanish for a Broadway revival of West Side Story; he contributed two new songs to an updated version of the Stephen Schwartz musical Working; and collaborated with Tom Kitt and Amanda Green on the pop-infused cheerleading musical Bring It On. He also found time to star in the Encores! stagings of Merrily We Roll Along and tick, tick… BOOM! (which happened to co-star Odom Jr.).

All along Hamilton was brewing in the background. Shortly after reading Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton while on vacation in 2008, Miranda debuted a rap about the Founding Father on May 12, 2009, as part of an Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word at The White House. President and Mrs. Obama were among the first to hear material from what would become the opening of the landmark musical.

Readings and workshops followed, as well as a concert presentation billed as The Hamilton Mixtape* at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series in 2012 and a developmental presentation at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theatre in summer 2013. The musical made its debut Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in the winter of 2015 (selling out its entire extended run) and transferred to Broadway the following July. It was an instant hit, taking home the Grammy Award for Best Theater Album, The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and 11 Tony Awards, including Best Book, Best Score, Best Direction and Best Musical.

What’s Next:
Miranda is currently at work on the new Disney animated musical Moana, which arrives in theatres November 23. He’ll also co-star with Emily Blunt in a sequel to Mary Poppins to be directed by Rob Marshall. Set for a Christmas 2018 theatrical release, Miranda will play Jack, a lamplighter, in the movie based on other books in P.L. Travers’ series on the adventures of the magical nanny. The picture will shoot in London, where it’s expected that Miranda will reprise his performance in the title role of Hamilton when the musical makes its West End premiere in October 2017 at the Victoria Palace Theatre, though his casting has not been officially announced.

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