A ‘Hamilton’ Star Is to Replace Josh Groban in ‘Great Comet’ (NYT) [x]:

[…] Okieriete Onaodowan, who played Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton,” will succeed the pop singer Josh Groban as Pierre this summer in the musical “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.”

The casting choice is striking. It reflects a bet by Broadway that “Hamilton” alumni have ongoing, bankable box-office appeal (another member of the original “Hamilton” cast, Phillipa Soo, will star in an adaptation of “Amélie” opening in April). And it is the rare instance in which two black actors are leading the cast of a show that is not about black characters: Mr. Onaodowan will star opposite Denée Benton as Natasha.

Mr. Onaodowan, a son of Nigerian immigrants who was raised in New Jersey and took up acting when an injury ended his high school football career, will assume the role on July 3, the day after Mr. Groban’s departure, and has committed to staying until Sept. 4. The musical, set in 19th-century Russia, is adapted from a section of “War and Peace” in which Pierre is a wealthy but dejected member of the Moscow elite. […]

What Do ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Amélie’ and ‘Great Comet’ Have in Common? Phillipa Soo (NYT):

Natasha. Eliza. Amélie.

Three Broadway heroines, one drawn from a novel, one from a biography, and one from a film, have very different back stories. But they share a common catalyst: Phillipa Soo.

The actress this spring will accomplish an unusual trifecta: Three roles she helped originate will be on Broadway at the same time.


Mr. Kail still remembers the cold winter night when he first saw Ms. Soo in “Great Comet.” He was seated with theater industry professionals at the makeshift supper club that was the show’s set at Ars Nova.

“I remember sitting there and saying ‘Who’s going to do it? Which of you is going to take this incandescent talent and share her in the world?’ ” he said. “She is lit from within.”

As it turned out, it was Mr. Kail who helped give Ms. Soo her big break. He was putting together a diverse cast for a reading of the second act of “Hamilton,” and invited Ms. Soo, whose paternal grandparents were immigrants from China, to join, convinced that she would make a good scene partner with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s writer and star. Mr. Miranda read as Alexander Hamilton; Ms. Soo as his wife, Eliza.

She knew nothing about the Hamiltons. “I Wikipedia-ed Eliza, and didn’t really find a whole lot — just that she had a lot of children,” Ms. Soo said. But she knew a bit more about Mr. Miranda, having seen video of his performance of a song from “Hamilton” at the White House a few years earlier.

By 2014, Ms. Soo had committed to “Hamilton,” meaning that she would be unable to continue with “Great Comet,” which was being refigured for Broadway, ultimately with the pop singer Josh Groban as its star.

“Of course I felt sad not to have the full experience,” she said. “But all three of these opportunities came when I was ready to be in the creative process again.”

The character of Eliza is challenging — every night, the actress playing the part must grieve her husband’s infidelity, mourn their lost child, and, finally, close the show envisioning her own death.

“Sometimes I would look out and see the audience, sometimes I would look out and see my grandmother, and sometimes I would look out and see Alexander,” she said.

The smash musical made Ms. Soo much better known — her anguished solo, “Burn,” is a highlight of the cast recording — and Mr. Kail said he always knew she would move on.

“‘Hamilton’ is how a few people in the world got to know her,” he said. “But she’s just getting started.” […]

read the wonderful full article for more of Pippa’s journey!

[…] Mr. Trump quickly made it clear on Twitter, his social medium of choice, that Mr. Dixon and the “Hamilton” team had been “rude and insulting” and owed Mr. Pence an apology. At first, a part of me could see Mr. Trump’s point, or at least feel a shudder of embarrassed empathy for Mr. Pence. If someone were to single me out for a direct plea from the stage in a large theater, I would no doubt want to run home, dive into bed and bury myself under the covers. (Mr. Pence, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said he was not offended by Mr. Dixon’s words.)

Thinking more rationally, I believe it can also be argued that a great work of art — a distinction for which “Hamilton” easily qualifies — should be sufficient unto itself. Though Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-laden show has been embraced as Broadway’s favorite feel-good musical of the moment, this portrait of a revolution is in itself revolutionary, with the provocation and defiance that such a characterization suggests.

“Hamilton” makes a sustained and vibrant case for the virtues of an American melting pot. This is as true of its form (which melds rap and hip-hop into the classic book musical) and its casting (which uses black and Latino men and women to portray the white founders of the United States) as of its content. (Don’t forget, this is a show in which the title character, Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette exult on the battlefield: “Immigrants, we get the job done.”)

The very presence of Mr. Pence — whose views on immigration, like those of Mr. Trump, are anything but celebratory — at this particular show (one previously embraced by the Obamas and Clintons) would seem to signal that an unspoken debate was going on that night. In that case, wasn’t Mr. Dixon belaboring the obvious in delivering the statement prepared by him and his associates (including Mr. Miranda)? Was what he said a condescending equivalent of supertitles for the inferentially challenged?

Any inclinations I might have had to think that way evaporated in the face of the succeeding barrage of Mr. Trump’s tweets (which were still continuing on Sunday morning). They underscored for me just how much we are living in a world that demands overstatement, in which italicized capital letters are required to highlight sentiments that might otherwise go ignored.

Woe unto those who believe that the meanings between the lines will be widely read. Much of the success of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign had to do with his awareness of that reality of contemporary communication.

In delivering his plea to Mr. Pence, Mr. Dixon wasn’t just emphasizing that a play is more than a self-contained work of art, that it’s a cry of thought and feeling pitched to an audience, a city, a nation, a world. He was also addressing Mr. Trump (through Mr. Pence) on his own blunt terms, albeit in a more eloquent (and, yes, polite) style. He was meeting directness with directness, carefully spelling out what his show had to say.

If the recent past is anything to go by, it is fair to assume that Mr. Trump will encounter more direct salvos from theater artists once he assumes the presidency. Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush (Remember Will Ferrell in “You’re Welcome America”?) and Barack Obama have all been the subjects of theater satires while in office. Those portraying Johnson and Nixon — created in a time when the nation was as contentiously divided as it is now, the 1960s and early ’70s — were especially savage in their attacks.

So will the political theater of the future prove a match for all the president’s thumbs? In any case, disagreement and dissent should energize art, not paralyze it, and provoke responses to match. I look forward (though perhaps with a wince) to whatever Mr. Trump has to say about whatever is said about him on this country’s stages. The main thing is that the conversation — all sides of it — be allowed to continue.


Alright, I know I’m late to the party here but can we talk about this for a few moments?

The concept of ‘fake news’ is absolutely horrifying and propagandistic.

Anyone that says anything bad about me is lying. Don’t listen to anyone who criticizes me or reports my mistakes. They’re all liars.

The American people, particularly Donald Trump’s supporters, are being spoon-fed this pacifying mantra that any sort of negative, worrying, or even downright terrifying report on the current government is inherently fake. I could easily use this opportunity to mock Trump’s delusion and his complete lack of contact with reality, like many people already have, or liken him to some totalitarian leader like Kim Jong Un or even Hitler, but there’s no point anymore. It’s been done so many times before, and it’s so inaccurate.

However, it is undeniable that this label of “fake news” is dangerous. Had the situation been any different, it would have just been a fantastic source of comedy. An unhinged, ill-informed man with the apparent inability to form a consistent opinion yelling on social media that anyone disagreeing with him is a liar. The man’s a caricature of his own self.

But unfortunately, it’s not even near being funny. Because people believe him. They follow him. And that gives him even more power to push this agenda further.

So Trump decided that everyone who has ever criticized him is “fake news”. Which sources does that consist of? So far: CNN, the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and BBC. According to the President, they are the “enemy of the people”.

When you take the phrase “fake news are the enemy of the people” and apply it to sources which are widely regarded as reliable as far as global news are concerned - such as BBC - it roughly translates into “information is the enemy of the people”. But you can’t say that, right? It sounds bad. It sounds oppressive, tyrannical, it sounds like someone is trying to silence the people and keep them ignorant.

So it’s better to pretend you’re trying to get rid of news you’ve deemed “fake” as a way to defend your honor and your people against mindless slander.

Unfortunately for Trump, he wasn’t the first leader to come up with that. In fact, the term has been used all throughout history, by various despots and autocrats seeking an excuse to silence opposition.

The expression dates back to Roman times, when Nero was declared a “hostis publicus” - an enemy of the people - after the support of authority figures shifted from him to governor Galba, who was being used by the Gaulish rebel Vindex as an opposition. One of the first things the rebels did to cause Nero’s downfall was to paint him not as their enemy, but rather as the enemy of the people. Everyone was morally obligated to hate him, unless they wished to become an enemy of the public too.

However, the most extensive usage of the phrase was during France’s Reign of Terror. The phrase “ennemi du peuple”, which has the very same meaning, was an excuse to guillotine anyone that didn’t fit the dictator’s views, without any evidence required.

Similarly, the expression was used by the Soviet Union, under which various parties, beliefs and people were labeled as “враг народа”. The so-called “enemy of the people” could be anyone from anarchists to nationalists, from emigrants to entrepreneurs, from monarchists to old Bolsheviks. There wasn’t much consistency in who was considered to be an enemy, but it hardly mattered - anyone the Union didn’t like certainly was.

Mao, Hitler, Stalin and Chavez, among other tyrants, also characterized political dissidents as such. And they used words very similar to these:

A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are. They are the enemy of the people”, spoken on the 24th of February.

Of course, this is not to imply that the US government will suddenly start annihilating journalists. It has already begun ostracizing them, however, and painting them in a highly negative light. The term creates an “us vs. them” mentality which encourages the people to - in the best case scenario - dismiss journalists and reporters, and - in the worst case scenario - assault them, whether verbally or physically. In any case, the message is clear: “the people who provide you with information are your enemies. The people who say bad things about me are your enemies.”

Fake news are indeed the enemy of knowledge. Misinformation is a hindrance and should be eliminated as efficiently as possible. However, we are not talking about actual misinformation; the term “fake news” in its current context does not mean “lies”, it means “opposition”. No doubt CNN and BuzzFeed are unreliable at best, the latter being classified more as yellow press than anything else, however I don’t recall any pro-Trump source such as Fox News, which is infamous for its frequent inaccuracies, being referred to as “fake news”. It was always the critics, the opposers, the aforementioned dissidents. As Trump himself said in the first tweet, “the negative polls are fake news”. 

“Anyone who points out my flaws is fake news. Fake news are the enemy of the people.” basically just means “Anyone who points out my flaws is a national enemy and should be treated as such.” 

People have approached me looking for a way to change the minds of Trump voters, but I can’t offer any magic technique. That kind of persuasion happens in person-to-person interactions and it requires a lot of honest listening on both sides. For me, the conversations that led me to change my views started because I couldn’t understand why anyone would fear me. I thought I was only doing what was right and defending those I loved.

I think the “Hamilton” cast modeled well one way to make that same connection when they appealed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence from the stage: “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.” Afterward, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon explained, “I hope he thinks of us every time he has to deal with an issue or talk about a bill or present anything.” I’m sure Mr. Pence believes his policies are just. But now he has heard from individuals who are worried about those policies. That might open him to new conversations.

I never would have begun my own conversations without first experiencing clear and passionate outrage to what I believed from those I interacted with. Now is the time for me to pass on that outrage by clearly and unremittingly denouncing the people who used a wave of white anger to take the White House.

Mr. Kasparov grasps that the real threat is not merely that a large number of Americans have become accustomed to rejecting factual information, or even that they have become habituated to believing hoaxes. The real danger is that, inundated with “alternative facts,” many voters will simply shrug, asking, “What is truth?” — and not wait for an answer.
—  ~Charlie Sykes, “Why No One Cares the President is Lying” (New York Times)

*So while you were adapting the book [Tiny Beautiful Things], Tommy was directing “Hamilton”? That must have been surreal.*

He said, “Hey, come see my rehearsal for the show called ‘Hamilton,’” and I was like: “Well, that sounds boring. Sure.” So I went, and Renée [Elise Goldsberry, who played Angelica Schuyler] and Lin [-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator, who played Alexander Hamilton] were rehearsing the going-backward scene when Renée reveals that she has been in love with Hamilton from the moment she met him. I watched Tommy put that scene together. I kept telling myself: “You have now realized that your friend is a genius. You must continue to treat him the same.”