‘Hamilton’ Comes Knocking
Marc delaCruz bursts onto the scene as the first Filipino American to perform the leading role in the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”
It’s hard to come by a person who hasn’t heard of the musical Hamilton, which took the world by storm when it debuted in early 2015. Since premiering at Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City more than five years ago, it has turned the world of musicals, theater and biographical retellings upside down by painting founding father Alexander Hamilton in a new — and completely groovy — light.
The show’s accolades alone speak volumes. In addition to winning big at the 2016 Tonys — Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations and Best Original Score, among seven other “bests” — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton also won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and countless other honors, and it’s even slated to be a movie in October 2021 under the Disney brand. To be part of something so pop culturally significant is one-in-a-million, and one local boy has been making a name for himself as the first Filipino American to play Hamilton on Broadway.
“I was coming at it from being a huge fan, and being aware of the hype, but also knowing that the hype was real,” says Marc delaCruz. “I knew about the show ever since it first came out and the impact it had on theater. I was coming from this, ‘Oh my gosh, I get a chance to be part of this groundbreaking, iconic show that’s unlike anything people have ever seen before.’
“I doubted playing Hamilton was something I’d be able to do,” he adds. “To not just be cast, but to understudy the role of Hamilton blew my mind. I was really intimidated, terrified, nervous. It’s thrilling for sure, but also a little bit scary.”
The leading role pushes a lot of boundaries for Hilo-born delaCruz, who usually stars in the ensemble and occasionally dons attire for the likes of King George III, John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, as well as supporting roles like James Reynolds and Philip Schuyler.
No matter the character, though, each show is a blast, thanks to the wonderfully written script and upbeat music — expect genres ranging from rap and hip-hop to pop and nods to classical music.
“The lyrics are just so brilliant,” says delaCruz. “The way they invent the story is so genius. It gives you insight to the characters’ minds, but at the same time it’s within this really groovy pop and hiphop/rap format.”
The melding of genres is evident in songs like Satisfied — one of delaCruz’s personal favorites — which details the love triangle between Hamilton and two of the Schuyler sisters.
My Shot, meanwhile, has all the elements of a ’90s hiphop chart-topper.
“There’s rap and R&B and soul in the midst of this Broadway show. I’ve loved this style of music since I was a preteen,” says delaCruz. “This was the genre I would always put on or be excited for when it came on the radio.”
Although he wasn’t certain he could perform such a huge role — for one thing, he had never rapped before — the support he got from his Broadway castmates melted away the fear.
“I wasn’t certain if I could do it,” he recalls of his initial hesitations. “I certainly had never rapped before. I grew up with hip-hop, but I never actually performed it.
“When I realized that I was capable, then it started becoming fun,” he adds. “I got into the inner workings of the character and the play, and started to approach it from the inside out, as opposed to seeing it from the outside in.”
It was on a whim that the international studies major dipped his toes into the wonderful world of theater, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I got involved with theater really for the first time in college … and a lot of things happened at once,” he says.
At the suggestion of friends, delaCruz took dance as an elective and loved it so much that he continued throughout his time at University of Washington. It was also around the same time that he started performing with community theaters in Seattle.
“In a lot of ways I was lucky,” he says. “I was living in a place where there was a lot of access to theater, but also where people were willing to give me the opportunity and show me the ropes.”
His first “big break” came as a sophomore in college, when Northwest Asian American Theatre cast delaCruz as Matt in The Fantasticks. It was his first large-scale performance, but not his very first time on stage.
“My very first production was actually way before all of this, when I was 9 years old,” delaCruz says. “I was really first bitten by the acting bug when I was cast in a production of A Christmas Carol at ACT Theatre in Seattle.”
The annual tradition sees kids from all over the city audition for small parts in the production, and delaCruz, along with his sister Deirdre, tried out.
“I was thrown into this processional theater production, and I just fell in love with it,” he says. “I think my parents thought it was kind of a grueling schedule for a kid with all the shows and rehearsals, but I didn’t mind it; I was having such a good time.”
Though he found his love of acting and performance early on, delaCruz spent his childhood and high school years pursuing what he calls “realistic dreams.”
“I started playing sports, and I think part of it is that I was scared to pursue it,” he says of theater. “When I became a teen, I thought that isn’t something I could really do, even though I had great experiences and I loved it. I kind of put it away.”
That is, until college. “I didn’t switch my major or anything,” he explains. “I had already gone down that road, but when I graduated I realized I wanted to continue exploring theater and performing.”
Six years of performing on the Seattle theater circuit allowed delaCruz to hone his craft and the various skills — dance, singing and acting— that come with large-scale performances. He then took the big leap in 2006 and moved to the Big Apple, which he’s called home ever since.
Even after Hamilton ends its run on Broadway, delaCruz says he’ll remain in New York. However, anything can change, and that’s just the life of an actor, to hear him tell it.
“You’re always kind of looking ahead to see what’s next, but not being able to know what’s down the road,” he explains.
While it would be great to be cast on another original show like Hamilton, the possibilities are endless for this ever-talented artist.
No matter where life takes him, though, delaCruz will always make it a point to come back to beautiful Hawai‘i nei and visit his favorite sites, including Hāpuna Beach, up toward Hawi and Pololū Valley, which is one of his favorite hiking trails.
“Having that be part of my upbringing was important to my mom (Hawai‘i Tribute-Herald columnist Rochelle delaCruz), who wanted us to have this connection,” delaCruz says. “But the Big Island is my home, as much as Seattle and New York.”