What does it take to make the cast of 'Hamilton'?
An actor who did it tells us how he earned a role in the Chicago production.
For some actors, being cast in a Broadway show is the capstone to a long career. For Yossi Chaikin, the opportunity came much sooner.
The dancer, who grew up right outside of Haifa, Israel, earned a spot in the new Chicago production of the smash Broadway hit musical "Hamilton" last summer. It was just a year after graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City.
To be fair, it didn't come easy. "It's a pretty long audition process but some of the folks here had even longer processes so I'm not complaining," Chaikin told From The Grapevine.
Chaikin auditioned in April 2015, in what would be the first of many such tryouts.
The next stage of the process, a week-long bootcamp, was perhaps the most grueling. "It's a six-day intensive," he explained, one meant to simulate the role of the ensemble in the production.
"They have four girls and four guys that resemble the ensemble in the show. They work with them for six days teaching them vocals, blocking and choreography of four or five show numbers," he said, adding, "They want to see how it is to work with you, whether you can handle the material, how you respond to being in the space."
After the bootcamp he still had to endure a vocal audition and then another for dance. He wasn't officially cast in the production until June 2016, 14 months after his initial tryout. It was worth the effort and uncertainty, of course. In his job as co-dance captain and swing, he plays an integral role in the production.
"As a swing I learn all of the ensemble tracks and am ready to go onstage at any point," he told us. That point came sooner than expected when an ensemble member hurt himself in one of the early shows and couldn't perform for several months. Chaikin and another swing filled the role, alternating shows. "It was amazing," Chaikin said of the opportunity. "I'm not usually supposed to be on stage but I find myself performing pretty often."
His role of co-dance captain is equally important. He works under the show's resident choreographer, running rehearsals and providing quality control for the dance portion of the show. Chaikin, at just 25, is experiencing the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Hamilton" premiered on Broadway in 2015 and has since won 11 Tony awards, a Grammy and even a Pulitzer. It's nearly impossible to get a ticket. In October the Chicago production debuted. This month saw the launch of a national tour, and it will soon be on London's West End.
While much of the show's success can be attributed to the script, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it's also thanks to an incredibly talented group of actors capable of executing Miranda's vision. Chaikin certainly fits this mold, but his talent didn't arise over night. Rather, it's something he has been cultivating since he was a little boy growing up in Kiryat Yam, Israel.
"I grew up in this household where dance and music and theater was always present. I got into it when I was very young and I was raised into it," he told us.
Although his parents had some reservations about his pursuing a career in dance, Chaikin's talent proved too much to ignore and he eventually made his way to Juilliard.
Then Hamilton called, and it hit him just how far he had come. "I'm surrounded by Broadway veterans who have accomplished so much and now I get to stand on the stage with them. It's insane."
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