Pacific actors find their voice in smash musical extravaganza Hamilton

The Grammy, Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Hamilton kicked off in Auckland last Friday evening bringing Pacific and Māori talent to the fore.

The play, which debuted on Broadway, New York in 2015, is renowned for the way it uses rap and hip hop to tell the story of one of America's Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, as well as being celebrated for the way it incorporates minority and people-of-colour (POC) cast members. 

PMN News reports the musical, which is written by Puerto Rican Mexican playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, has gained worldwide acclaim, spawning a Disney+ film of the production and in 2021 it was recast for an Australian production, directed by Thomas Kail. 

Akina Edmonds (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) joined the cast in 2021 and plays Angelica Schuyler, an American socialite and sister-in-law of the main character Alexander Hamilton.

She says even though it’s telling a story rooted in American history, she’s able to connect with her character given the story’s overarching message of celebrating indigenous people. 

“We were asked to bring ourselves, which was kind of scary, actually,” she says. 

“[But what’s] interesting because it's still about the underdog, you know, fighting for something. So I think there's something in that where we can connect to.”

Iosefa Laga'aia, whose father is world famous NZ-Samoan actor Jay Laga'aia, is an onstage cover in the musical which means he‘s the understudy for actors playing Madison Mulligan, Lafayette Jefferson, George Washington and Aaron Burr. 

He says the production has been a freeing experience. 

“It's amazing that we’re reclaiming what we've been told is an invalid form of communication,” he says. 

“[And no longer being told] you can't talk like that, you can't perform like that, or that doesn't make any sense.

Growing up, Laga'aia says the only person of colour he saw on TV was his dad, Jay who’s role as Captain Typho in the Star Wars films has garnered him international stardom.

“To now be up there myself, to be up there sharing the stage with some amazing performers out there who look like me and sound like me, you know, I can only hope that we are inspirational to next generation performers that come to us.”

Manurewa-born Elandrah Eramiha plays the both the role of Peggy Schuyler who was the daughter of a Continental Army General Philip Schuyler and Maria Reynolds, who is Andrew Hamitlon’s mistress. 

She says growing up in Australia meant being around lots of Pacific people is something she never really experienced. 

 “I've never had this experience ever, especially growing up in Australia. I've never really been around other Polys so being here and doing this amazing show, like the biggest show in the world with my people, is just so revolutionary - I feel very blessed."


The cast of Hamilton, who will be performing at the Spark Arena this May. Photo/ PMN/ Aleyna Martinez​​