A little over two years ago, Hamilton opened on Broadway. TheaterMania caught up with two actors who were on the stage where it happened — and who continue to perform in the historic musical. Thayne Jasperson, who plays the British loyalist Samuel Seabury, is the only cast member still in his original role. Emmy Raver-Lampman, by contrast, started as part of the ensemble on Broadway, left the show in April 2016 for SpongeBob SquarePants, returned as an ensemble member in the Chicago production of Hamilton, and is now playing Angelica Schuyler in the first national tour. She and Jasperson talked to TheaterMania about their experiences with the musical and how it's changed since the summer of 2015.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What was it like performing in Hamilton that first night on Broadway?
Thayne Jasperson: The energy was electric. We knew that shows were sold-out up to months in advance, and we were ready to tell this story to a bigger audience. When we first started our opening number and Lin[-Manuel Miranda] came out to say, "Alexander Hamilton," the audience just erupted.
Emmy Raver-Lampman: It was very much in the vein of any new show that you're opening or getting ready to open; it's just absolute chaos, not from the standpoint of the audience, but it's still so new to everyone, and everyone is trying to get their bearings on what they're actually supposed to be doing onstage. I was new to the show, so I was still very much in my head about what the lyrics were, what the choreography was, where I was supposed to be going, and what my costume changes were.
In what ways have you seen the show change over the past couple of years?
Thayne: You see new takes on different roles. You see new artists and what they bring — and I love individuality. I love that freshness that comes with everybody in the way that they do it. It doesn't have to be exactly "This is how this guy did it, do it exactly like that." I love that there's a bit of flair.
Emmy: It's so funny because the show itself has only become more relevant, I feel. There's no way that Lin had any idea that we would be in the climate that we're in right now, but I think the show was pushing the envelope, making people question and see things differently and opening their eyes and hearts and all of those things already, but now the show feels more relevant, which is just so crazy. It's a different show when you see it when Barack Obama was president and when Donald Trump is president — no matter what your political views are.
What's been the biggest highlight of your time with Hamilton?
Thayne: One experience that was really fun for me was when Joe Biden came. He is the coolest guy ever. It was my birthday, and so I went up to him and I said, "Hey, I'm Thayne. It's my birthday!" He said, "What?!" And he grabbed me, and he gave me a kiss on the head.
Emmy: It was meeting the Obamas not once but three times… They ushered Barack and the girls into a performance. I was standing backstage getting ready to make my entrance for the opening number, and I just started bawling. I could not stop crying for the first 20 minutes of the show. That first time they came back at intermission, and we got to shake his hand and take a group photo with him and the girls.
Barack came back again to make a speech on our stage when the DNC [Democratic National Committee] bought out a show. We got to stand in the wings, and I met him again, and I was crying again! Then the Obamas invited us to the White House to perform selections from the show and spend a day with them. I lost my mind — I couldn't keep it together. We all went down to the White House on a Monday to perform. When we got there, they shook our hands and greeted us by our first names — every single person in the cast — and gave us full squeeze hugs.
What has been the biggest challenge of your time with the show?
Thayne: I actually love when things go wrong, like when somebody forgets a line. One time our Eliza was singing "Burn" and she forgot her words, but she was composed. She sat there and she stared and read the letter like nothing was supposed to happen. And I looked in and I was like, "Oh my gosh, it's brilliant." She was supposed to be singing but because she was so composed and in her moment, the professionalism just shined through.
Emmy: The physical demands. Every emotion that the audience goes through when they see this show is also every emotion that we go through onstage, except for the fact that they have the pleasure of sitting down for three hours while we are physically running a three-hour marathon in these giant ball skirts and heels, running up and down flights of stairs.
Hamilton opened in a very different political climate from that of today. Has the change in the U.S. political landscape affected the show?
Thayne: We always get a big reaction out of "Immigrants, we get the job done!" The audience erupts in that moment because they understand the importance. In a crazy time where a lot of crazy things are happening in the world, many lines will get bigger laughs or bigger reactions because everybody understands it, because they stand together. No matter what political party they're from, no matter what their beliefs are, in this moment, they're together and united in certain feelings.
Emmy: The thing that is so beautiful about this show is that because of its timelessness and because of its truth and honesty, it can pluck the right strings with anybody, no matter your political stance or your background. I think art is an expression of the world as it is in that current time. I think it's impossible for anyone to see Hamilton and not walk away having felt something. If that's anger, great. If that's happiness, great. If that's hope, great. This show kicks up things inside, and that's all we can ask for.