AUSTIN (KXAN) — The last time this set constructed of wood, bricks and rope graced the stage at Bass Concert Hall was 2019. On the rotating section of the floor at the center, actors costumed in apparel reminiscent of the early days of America danced, sang and rapped about the birth of the United States.
That was before the pandemic, before Black Lives Matter protests like the ones that spilled onto Interstate 35 in Austin.
But now, the musical “Hamilton” is back in the city.
“It feels incredible to be back on stage and share this return with our entire company and all of the audiences across the country who come to see and support, not only our show but any of the performing arts. We all felt that empty space and the need for it to be filled again,” said Josh Tower, who plays the titular character’s rival, Aaron Burr.
“Hamilton” marks the first Broadway production to return to Bass Concert Hall since the pandemic — a whopping 21 months since the last Broadway performance there. Usually, the stage hosts a rotation of plays throughout the season.
Tower said the energy of returning to the stage has been matched by audiences who “craved being back in the theater,” and that the events of the past year have influenced how he and other actors interpret their roles.
“I think we’re all naturally incorporating a great desire and need in our performance. That need is a bit different for all of us. For me, there’s a sense of great pride. To relight this flame and this story; For my industry, for the story of my country and the shoulders of my forefathers and mothers that I stand on every day,” Tower said.
The musical tells the story of the American Revolution and the early history of creating American government, narrated by Tower’s Burr, the man who eventually killed the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.
The non-fiction book “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow inspired the musical, which is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda was part of the original cast as the main character (you can see him in a recording of the play on Disney+) but never played the role in Austin, which was part of subsequent tours after it became massively popular. He’s since worked on music for Disney’s “Moana” and saw his musical “In The Heights” hit the silver screen this year.
“Hamilton” runs in Austin from Dec. 7-19.
COVID-19 safety protocols
Bob Bursey, Executive and Artistic Director of Texas Performing Arts, said they “wanted to welcome our loyal Broadway fans back with something special. There’s no better way to do that than opening the Broadway in Austin season with such a landmark show.”
More than 15,000 people have attended events at the Bass Concert Hall so far this fall, he said, greeted by safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
People are strongly recommended to wear masks and hand sanitizer is provided as well.
And in the background, the venue has worked to improve air circulation and filtration, provide contactless transactions for food or tickets, more frequently clean “high touchpoint” places like restrooms and create more space in the lobbies. Bursey says Texas Performing Arts monitors local COVID-19 conditions, follows the guidance of state health officials and University of Texas medical experts.
While Bursey said the response for the return of “Hamilton” has been “tremendous,” there are still tickets available.
Tickets for “Hamilton” can be purchased online and range from $49 to $299. There will also be $10 tickets available through a lottery people can sign up for each week as the performances are going on.
From now until Thursday at noon, people can register online. Winners will be notified on Thursday between noon and 4 p.m. for the upcoming week’s performances, and will have one hour to claim their tickets. The lottery registration period will reset Friday at 10 a.m. and close the following Thursday at noon for the last week of performances.
Tower says he always wishes audiences experience three things in attending a performance:
One, I hope the audience walks away with a tune in their head, an ear worm, and maybe fall in love with theater for the first time…or again! Second, I hope the audience walks away asking questions and having conversations about our GREAT country. Wanting to “know more” is so valuable. Lastly…..I hope the audience sees themselves on that stage. One aspect of the show that I am SO PROUD of is that there is no “prescribed” look, complexion, or nationality to it. We have a vastly diverse cast and every company of Hamilton is different. Like our DIVERSE, BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY I hope that the audience sees a refection of themselves on that stage……. and us them. That’s to be CELEBRATED!