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Addicted to Hamilton? Theater Legend T. Mychael Rambo has the Cure

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Photo: Travis Meier, Tish Jones of Hooked on Hamilton

Slang and words with double meanings can sometimes be comical, or even disturbing.

Consider “addiction.” Addiction is a word with scary loaded meaning! The true meaning is “someone who keeps doing an act to endure a high.” Yet it can be used as a comical escape to describe to a lifestyle or happenings. An example could be, “I have a friend who is addicted to Nutella, who sits on the sofa and passes the time by eating spoonfuls.” Alternately, it can be used to describe someone actually suffering from a disease in a life-threatening way. This example gets a little darker: “I have a friend who is homeless because he spent all his money on Nutella, he is an addict!”

Enough with metaphors, let’s jump directly in the true addiction: Hamilton! I am among the many addicts of the play. I even did an article on a local charity show put on by the traveling cast back in October at First Ave. Lately, Twin Cities “Hamfans” have been in withdrawal. Luckily, T. Mychael Rambo, a local theater legend, has found an outlet to feed the need and keep us hooked. He developed a show with the help from the musical director (MD) Jordan Hedlund, Hooked on Hamilton!

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Photo: Travis Meier, Host – T. Mychael Rambo of Hooked on Hamilton

The show premiered at the historic Dakota Jazz Club on October 22nd and was in its third, sold out edition last month. The Dakota, which holds 260, was maxed out. Rambo wanted to develop a show to help bridge the gap between the clientele of the Dakota, which might not be into theater, and the theater scene in Minneapolis. He also wanted it to be an avenue for emerging artists to follow the same successful model Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of Hamilton, used. It also provides an opportunity for people who may have not been able to afford to see the play to see favorite songs performed. Remember tickets were, and still are, going for $200+ per person.

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Photo: Travis Meier, Hooked on Hamilton at The Dakota Jazz Club

The performance included 14 local theater performing artists accompanied by a talented five-piece orchestra (the normal version uses 10, including Jordan). The first challenge was to fit the music to the Dakota stage. Since there was no restriction on spoken word, he carefully chose musicians who play multiple instruments and can improvise on the fly. The performers had the run of the stage, sometimes making changes at the last second. It was also an opportunity for performers to speak their minds. Tish Jones, for example, spoke about current African-American issues during her rendition of “My Shot,” while others stuck to the songs script.  Rambo and Hedlund have never edited a performer. Rambo says that he “Relishes the moments of honesty, because it comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.”

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Photo: Travis Meier, Musical Director – Jordan Hedlund of Hooked on Hamilton

The show provides a glance into a world which some may have never envisioned themselves. For example, a little girl sitting next to the stage was mouthing the soundtrack songs. Towards the end, she yelled out to Rambo (the host) “Do more Arron Burr!” The final song of the night was “Wait For It,” an Aaron Burr solo song, so she lucked out. She got to see some incredible performers which may inspire her to be up there someday.

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Photo: Travis Meier, China Brickey of Hooked on Hamilton

Hooked on Hamilton provided a gateway for many emerging artists to perform in front of an audience and on a stage which may have not never been available. Both performers and audience united for a special bond over one thing. It also provided a glance into a theater scene outside of the big productions for us to get excited about. Hopefully, the play created a new craving and addiction in the Twin Cities art scene and we keep feeding it. The addiction is hard to reclaim if it falls into remission.

The show is in the process of developing its 4th installment and dates will be announced soon!

Performer List:

  1. China Brickey
  2. Ivory and Lynnea Doublette
  3. Tish Jones
  4. Rajane Katurah
  5. Frank Sentwali
  6. Judah Zoe Gardner
  7. Kasano Mwanza
  8. Bradley Greenwald
  9. Malik Watkins
  10. Ivory and Lynnea Doublette
  11. Andre Shoals
  12. Desdemona and Tish Jones
  13. T. Mychael Rambo
  14. John Jamison

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