The regal line of succession in the world of Hamilton got a heck of a lot more complicated the other week. That’s when Brian d’Arcy James put himself back under King George III’s crown — making him not only the first person to play the monarch in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical back when it debuted Off Broadway, but now the latest actor to play the character in its smash Broadway run.
Not much changed in terms of his songs or the way he plays the character, said d’Arcy James, who also appeared recently in Netflix’s buzzed-about series 13 Reasons Why. But what has changed is the feeling inside the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the kind that comes after tremendous buzz, countless fans (celebrities and otherwise), and a slew of accolades. “The context is different because people were just starting to discover it [when I was in the show at the Public Theater] and sense it becoming what it has become back then, both in the cast and in the audience. And now, it’s undeniable, and it’s such a phenomenon and you can feel a different kind of vibe in the house when you start the show.”
He’s also performing alongside a different cast this time around, including Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (the former Genie in Broadway’s Aladdin), who began his Hamilton run as the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson on the same night d’Arcy James re-donned his King George robes.
“I’m in awe of this cast,” the three-time Tony nominee said. “I’ve been away from it long enough to have completely fresh eyes on the show and I’m just like anybody else. When I watched the show before I came back in, just to get primed to go back in, I was astounded by everyone’s performances. There’s such intricacy and there is such power and physicality coming from everybody in that cast that I have this great opportunity to just slide in [during] the show — I have my little things, my little surgical strikes if you will, and then I can just watch everybody do the extraordinary things they’re doing.”
And as the newly crowned (and also original) king across the sea, d’Arcy James was able to see the show’s success from off-stage, while still an integral part of the musical’s origin story. Asked to reflect on that arc, he said, “The first thing that comes to mind is a sense of pride in having been there. After that, there’s the sense of knowing the journey that cast took was so extraordinary and to watch it evolve from outside rather than inside is an interesting perspective — knowing what the work was, because the work didn’t change, and everybody’s putting all their effort into making the show as good as it can be. What changed was all of the people that would come and give it this air of being something different — a destination. Getting the stamp from senators and heads of state and icons in the entertainment industry, rock and roll legends, pop singers, all those people that were coming — the gravy, the gravy was fun to see and imagine what that was like. I got a little bit of that at the Public, and mind you, this is just the fun stuff. Because like I said, the work is the work, but the experience of sharing that with people that you admire and adore is a different thing altogether. And thankfully, that continues too. So I guess that’s my take on it was it was fun to watch my friends get to experience the biggest birthday party every night for however long they were there.” […]