Meet your #HamiltonCHI cast
“I knew that if I went back to work, I would not be going to the coasts, because I've done that and that's not where my family or my community is,” says Olivo, who originated the role of Vanessa in In the Heights and won a Tony Award as Anita in the 2009 revival of West Side Story. The actor moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 2013, where she’s worked in advisory capacities with local theaters and directed student shows at the University of Wisconsin.
Olivo saw Hamilton at its Broadway opening night, and recalls someone asking her if she was sad to not be on stage. “I said, ‘You know, I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.’ Now I get the best of both worlds: I get to be a fan of it and love it and be in awe of it, and then now I get to get inside of it and figure out how it works.”
In Chicago, Olivo will play Hamilton’s sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler—the role for which Renée Elise Goldsberry won a Tony earlier this year. “It was just like on my news feed somewhere that said they would be opening a company in Chicago,” Olivo says. “I texted Tommy Kail and said, ‘Are you gonna let me audition for Angelica?’ I think he thought I was kidding at first.”
Olivo visits Chicago frequently, often seeing theater when she does. “Being here in Madison and going to Chicago so often to see theater, it's basically New York in my backyard, right?” she says, laughing. “It's like the other New York as far as the level of talent and the level of art and the way that people respect it. I'm pretty excited just to get to know everybody in Chicago. Every time I go and see theater there, I'm always so blown away.”
“It's actually the biggest sort of role I've ever had, just on paper. It's more words than I've ever said,” says Cervantes, who takes on the role originated by show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. “And as we've learned, it's more words than anyone's ever said,” he adds, referencing a FiveThirtyEight analysis that determined Hamilton averages more than twice as many words per minute than typical musicals.
Cervantes, whose Broadway credits include If/Then and American Idiot, sees a great responsibility in his role, especially given the way the show has impacted young fans. “I have parents who are saying, ‘My kid knows every word.’ Someone said to me something so amazing, which was all of a sudden, George Washington to a lot of young people will be a mixture of this old white guy in a wig, and a big black man.”Cervantes says he’s curious how he’ll be received compared to Miranda: “Lin has this sort of mystique threaded in, that you see him do the show and know that all of these words came out of his brain,” he says. “And then there's little me, little Miguel coming in to step into this role. To be able to carry the flag into this whole other area of the country is—I don't think I have any idea how it's all going to go down.”
A San Diego native, Afsar was a contestant on the eighth season of American Idol and won the Miss California pageant in 2010, finishing in the top 10 at Miss America. Check out her website and you’ll see her modeling work and links to original songs on SoundCloud. Acting is another of her varied interests. “Ever since I was 14, my parents would take a day off of work once a week and drive me up to L.A. for five-minute auditions,” she says. “I grew up doing musicals since I was seven [and] did some regional theater; in San Diego I was in [How the Grinch Stole Christmas] as Cindy Lou Who at Starlight, which was a big theater that has now closed. But nothing that's comparable to Hamilton, let's be real.”Afsar got a one-way ticket to New York City last year almost on a whim, she says. Guess it worked out for her; Hamilton is the first audition her new agent sent her out on. “Timing is everything, because the opportunity of Hamilton wasn't there five, six years ago or 10 years ago, and it couldn't have been—having a pop background and the opportunities for diversity, it's just really fantastic that Lin-Manuel created such an amazing opportunity for all types of people,” Afsar says. She booked the show without having seen it: “In my callback, Tommy Kail was in the audition and he asked me if I'd seen Hamilton. I was like, ‘No, I've been trying to get tickets every day!’”
When I call Chicago native Ramos early on a Friday morning a week before rehearsals begin for Hamilton’s Chicago company, he’s eating breakfast in New York’s Bryant Park before heading to his last shift at his day job—promoting Broadway shows in Times Square. Ramos attended high school at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and moved to New York soon after graduating. “I was like, I've gotta do something, I know where Broadway is, so why not go where Broadway is,” he says.He first auditioned for Hamilton's Off Broadway run at the Public Theater; though he made it through a couple of callbacks, he didn’t get the gig. “So then I had to wait and see it become the monster and the awesome thing that it is. It was crazy because I do work in Times Square, so I would literally see the buzz of Hamilton happen. And I kinda made a promise to myself: You are going to be a part of this, don't worry, just wait, wait, wait.”