Broadway’s Hamilton is here Meet actor Josh TowerBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / April 8, 2022
Hamilton: An American Musical is making a stop at Greensboro’s Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts from April 6-24 and cast member Josh Tower, says that the musical’s diverse casting is one thing that makes the production so groundbreaking.
The critically acclaimed production is a sung-and-rapped-through musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It tells the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, based on the biography by Ron Chernow. Since its premiere in 2015, Hamilton has won Tony, Grammy, and Olivier Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an unprecedented special citation from the Kennedy Center Honors.Tower, a native of Philadelphia, takes on the role of American politician and lawyer, Aaron Burr, who served as the third vice president of the United States from 1801 to 1805. Burr’s legacy is defined by his famous personal conflict with Alexander Hamilton that culminated in Burr killing Hamilton in a duel in 1804, while Burr was vice president.
“Historically, he [Burr] is also one of the founding fathers, but he doesn’t get the credit because he shot Hamilton. I liken him to sort of what Judas was to Jesus – the ultimate betrayal,” said Tower, who originally auditioned for the role of George Washington, but was later cast as Burr.
He noted that productions that have been running for decades typically have very specific directions and choreography that are always closely followed, whereas with Hamilton, there’s no pre-written behavior or look the actors have to follow.
“There is no prescribed look. All the actors across each theatre company have different ethnic looks. Burr is not always a bald, Black guy, or Hamilton is not always played by a Latinx man. That is also what makes the production so important,” said Towers. “The story of America is really about all the different people that came here to make it what it is today.”
Tower said he believes that musical theatre has always been his calling. After graduating high school, he wanted to attend a school in Philadelphia for performing arts; however, he couldn’t afford the cost of tuition. He instead joined the U.S. Army and was later able to enroll in college through the G.I. Bill. He admits that he was notorious for getting in trouble for singing in the barracks at night when everyone was supposed to be sleep.
A seasoned stage performer, Tower holds a BA in Theatre and an MFA from UNC Chapel Hill in Acting through its Playmakers’ Repertory Company Professional Acting Training program. He has performed in musical productions both on and off Broadway since 1999, including tours with The Lion King (2002-2007), Motown The Musical, Ragtime, and also a Law & Order television show credit under his belt.
The transformation of diversity in musical theatre is something that Tower said he sees is slowly starting to happen.
“We’ve come far but we have not come far enough. There are still some shows that really have the ability within the story to cast people of all ethnicities. Lin’s perspective is: these White men and women who came here – these colonists – were clearly not from here. And in contemporary terms, if you’re not from here and you arrive here from overseas, you are an immigrant. So that’s the idea of Hamilton and that is why it is so diverse. And it’s largely a reflection of how diverse America is now,” he said.
Tower added that the show is diverse, but not specifically cast by race.
“I think this show really gives young artists hope that they can audition for these roles without worrying about if they’re not going to be considered because their skin is brown or their eyes are almond shaped,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of youth exposure to career paths that they wouldn’t normally see. Particularly Black and Brown children seeing Black and Brown actors on stage, playing an array of characters; not the criminal or the bad guy. Tower added that there are so many other roles that are crucial to executing a production, which have the possibility of leading to careers in television and film.
“What’s great about this show, is the writing is in the style of hip hop, which is very popular and is largely connected to the youth, so I think a lot of the songs allow people to get into the history in a different way,” said Tower. “Lin’s writing really inspires people to think outside the box and outside of their realities.”