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Persistence pays off for 'Hamilton' actor

Hugo Phan
Lin Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson originated the roles of Alexander Hamilton and George Washington during the initial Broadway production of "Hamilton."

As a college student in Virginia, Tyler Fauntleroy fell in love with the musical "Hamilton." Now he's in the cast.

Wichitans can see a touring production of the sensational Broadway musical “Hamilton” at Century II starting Tuesday, June 6 and ending Sunday, June 18.

Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the score blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and the familiar sounds of Broadway across the sweeping story of Hamilton’s life.

The musical received 11 Tony Awards in 2016 including Best Musical, earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and a Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Since its debut, the show has left audiences talking both in and outside the walls of theaters across the globe.

Like previous groundbreaking theatrical works such as “Rent” or “A Chorus Line” it has revolutionized the way people experience stories and the theater itself.

Actor Tyler Fauntleroy (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton) says that being part of this cultural phenomenon has been an opportunity that many actors—himself included—dream of.

“I made a joke when I first got here that being part of this show feels like being traded into the Lakers,” he says, “or you’re joining The Avengers. To be part of an incredible moment in musical theater history and pop culture history is amazing.”

He first dreamed of being part of the musical while a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. He’d been aware of playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work through a variety of outlets and had seen Miranda’s acclaimed “In the Heights” on Broadway c.2010.

“I was a fan of Lin for quite some time,” Fauntleroy says.

He was a junior in college when the album arrived and it was nothing short of life changing.

“I remember sitting in my college dorm that night listening to it and just being in awe of the music, in awe of the people singing it, that it was Black and brown people of color telling this story. It was music that I recognized, genres that I grew up on, references to music that I love. From my first listen,” he says, “I was immediately a fan.”

That night, listening to pieces such as “Wait for It,” he thought, “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, I don’t know at what time in my life, but I must be a part of this.”

His dream, it turned out, would pay off but it would require persistence.

The road to “Hamilton” was paved with many false starts says the actor, who has appeared in

stage productions of August Wilson’s “Fences” and Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” along with screen work on “Succession,” “The Oath,” and “FBI.”

His “Hamilton” odyssey began in 2015.

Late that year, he responded to a call for video audition submissions. He had to deliver a short musical number and a verse of rap.

He chose “When You’re Home” from “In the Heights” and a verse from Nas’ “The World Is Yours.” He sent the video in and then, like many actors, waited, unsure if he’d hear anything at all.

By the following spring he’d received a note asking for a second video as well as a performance of “Dear Theodosia” and a verse from “Washington on Your Side.”


More waiting.

By early 2017 he was preparing for a showcase in New York City with his acting class at VCU. That included attracting attention of casting directors, managers, and agents via a website with headshots and resumes.

Some from the class were then asked to audition for “Hamilton” in-person.

“I was in the middle of a class and I got the email and it took everything in me not to burst into flames because I couldn’t believe that I was actually get a chance to audition in-person,” Fauntleroy recalls.

He traveled to New York, had a solid audition, then returned to Virginia where he waited for more news. He moved to New York upon graduation then experienced a series of call-back auditions—where actors read for different roles and continue to demonstrate their tenacity.

Fauntleroy found himself doing just that—reading various parts, being asked to audition for touring companies, as a Broadway replacement.

By early 2020 he’d auditioned for every major role except for George Washington and King George III.

“The role that I had been called in for the most was Laurens/Philip,” a role played by the same actor in every production of “Hamilton.”

He auditioned for that role one last time.

“I was eager to hear back from them because that time it felt like, ‘This might be the time.’ To be honest, every other time felt like that but that time really did feel like it was it,” he says.

“And then the pandemic happened.”

With Broadway and other performance spaces shuttered, he was forced to wait two more years. Then, in late 2022, a call came in asking if he was still interested.

The casting team had been impressed with his work and a hole in the cast was opening. The role of Laurens/Philip was his if wanted it.

“That was the last thing I expected to hear,” he recalls. “I immediately started crying.”

He adds, “I heard an actor say, ‘Sometimes you have to love this business and it doesn’t love you back.’ Persistence,” he says, “is the name of the game.”

What kept him going through the trials and tribulations of his prolonged audition process?

“My faith is what grounds me. My belief that my steps are ordered and that ultimately there is a plan for my good and no matter where the chips fall I trust in the one who places them there. That’s what I cling to. I would drive myself insane if I didn’t have the grounding in faith and my trust in God.”

Landing the role may have taught him persistence Fauntleroy notes that there is another experience that comes with performing the show and connecting with audiences about a powerful work that has left an indelible mark on the American stage and American letters.

“We were in Virginia for four weeks—first in Norfolk and then in Richmond. I’m from Hampton, which is about 30 minutes away from Norfolk and in Richmond we were basically on my college campus at VCU,” he says. There, he was able to connect with people who he refers to as the village who made him who he is. “Some of those people had never really gotten to see theater at all, ever. So it was wonderful to celebrate this moment with them but for them to also experience how theater is a wonderful, beautiful thing but also challenges us and makes us think.”

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.