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Yo, Hamilton: Cast Chance the Rapper in Chicago

It’s crazy enough to work.

Photo: (left) Jessica Tezak/Chicago Tribune; (right) Joan Marcus

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton opens in Chicago this fall, it’s unclear who will be standing on stage. The cast remains unannounced, and the official website is still accepting auditions. So here’s a wild idea: Cast Chance the Rapper in the local run.

To be clear, he shouldn’t play Hamilton himself (or primaries Burr or Washington, for that matter) in the hip-hop American history musical. There’s plenty of local talent for the bonkers-popular production to tap before doling out celebrity cameos—a requisite if it hopes to make meaningful ties with the city.

But if there were room for a guest star, you’d have trouble finding a better match than Chano. That’s not just because he’s a Hamilton fanboy (see him with Lin-Manuel on this month’s Complex cover) and a nut for musical theater (he saw The Lion King 20 times while designing his live show). And it’s not just because his vicious-independent climb to fame captures the very heart of Hamilton. It’s because there’s a dual role practically made for him in Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.

For starters, whoever takes the role in Chicago needs to rap. The French revolutionary Lafayette comes out spitting in Hamilton’s first act, and later shoulders the now-famous verse in “Guns and Ships” that tops out at 6.3 words per second (jump to 0:30 below).

The role is played on Broadway by Daveed Diggs, a rapper and member of Los Angeles hip-hop group Clipping. Before Hamilton, he’d never worked in a professional musical before (let alone on Broadway). Picked partially for his bars, Diggs’ dexterity would be hard to match without casting a rapper.

When Lafayette finally exits after the Battle of Yorktown, Diggs reappears in Act Two as Thomas Jefferson. It’s a decidedly less gymnastic role, but calls for the same hip-hop knowhow, and—not to knock Chance here—some seriously squawky singing.  Take Jefferson’s Act Two-opener, which already borders on Chance’s rolling nasal drawl (jump to 1:10).

Or the act’s two cabinet meetings, reimagined as rap battles, which practically beg to be punctuated with Chance’s stock Igh! ad lib (jump to 0:20 and 0:18 respectively).

Past that, a regular gig could make logistical sense for Chance. The rapper had a baby girl last fall, and while eight shows a week is a lot for hip-hop’s most buzzing free agent—especially one with a mixtape dropping tomorrow—it’s got to be less taxing on a new dad than touring.

Chance even waxes rhapsodic about fatherhood in Hamilton in that Complex story, which is to say he’s got at least one eye on ways to make impactful art and be home by dinner. While a slot in Hamilton would mean waving goodbye to any meaningful tour for 18 months, it would also mean working a mile from home. Plus, Lin-Manuel takes a day off; there’s no reason Chance couldn’t too.

The whole thing is a long shot. But in a play that reimagines the American experiment, it’s worth entertaining.

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