“Hamilton” crew teaches Pittsburgh kids about dance, diversity and changes in musical theater

The musical Hamilton is taking Pittsburgh by storm, with 32 shows throughout the month of January. It’s the most popular musical to hit Broadway in years, and its impact is being felt in even more ways, now that it’s touring the country. Hamilton has had many cultural influences, particularly encouraging more diversity in casting and making rap and hip-hop popular in musical theater.

Some local students got to learn about that firsthand in what’s called a “master class” with cast member, Tre Frazier, of the Hamilton tour. “There’s a lot of really cool classic musical theatre mixed in a blender with pop and hip-hop music, also mixed with American history,” Frazier explains. Hamilton tells the story of the founding of our country but in a way only creator Lin-Manuel Miranda could have imagined.

About thirty students studying musical theater at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Beaver County are learning from Frazier, who’s a standby for several of the main characters in Hamilton in Pittsburgh. He’s teaching the students the audition dance he learned when he tried out in September. In fact, he just joined the company and is learning, while on tour, the various roles he’ll play.

The cast features people of all colors, shapes and sizes, and Frazier says diversity is a big part of the mission of Hamilton. Frazier says the musical theater community is starting to add more diversity, thanks to the show. “It’s definitely started the conversation,” Frazier says. “It’s definitely slowly trickling into happening in New York and on Broadway.” Frazier says more work still needs to be done, but he’s excited by the direction, and so are the kids.

“Hamilton is definitely a show that’s reinvigorated a love of musical theater for both young and old but especially the students of the charter school,” says Justin Fortunato, artistic director of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center which is the professional arm of the school.

Student Anna Ungarino, a senior, says, ” I think it’s genius, and I think it’s going to change musical theatre forever.” Fellow senior Ali Ragazzini adds, “It’s definitely different than classical musical theatre choreography, but that’s what makes it so powerful because it’s different and it pushes the limits.”

For these students, Frazier is living their dream. “It’s very, very inspirational to see someone and see that he made it and that it’s possible,” says Josh Lyda, a junior at Lincon Park Performing Arts School. “Then you just kind of have to not give up and just kind of follow your dreams.”

If you want to take your kids to see Hamilton, there’s a lottery for $10 tickets, two days before each performance. Get details here.

There are other ways kids can learn from the show too.

Jan. 10 – At the Heinz History Center, there’s “Hamilton Remix: History Meets Showbiz”, about the real story of Hamilton and the show’s cultural influence. – https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/events/hamilton-remix-history-meets-show-biz

Jan. 11 – “Hamiltunes Karaoke Night” gives kids 10-17 a chance to sing and rap parts of the show while the audience sings back-up. https://trustarts.org/event/16411-2018/hamiltunes-an-american-family-sing-along

Jan. 14 – There’s another dance master class at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. https://www.pbt.org/workshops/

Kidsburgh’s Guide to 10 Places that Make History Fun – https://www.kidsburgh.org/category/kdka-tv-kidsburgh-report-by-kristine-sorensen/