Philly native Ta’Rea Campbell hits the stage as lead in ‘Hamilton’

Shoba Narayan, TaRea Campbell and Nyla Sostre in ‘Hamilton.’
Joan Marcus

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage show ‘Hamilton’ first debuted in 2015, it was a hit. But it’s only gotten bigger over the course of six years and has virtually become one of the biggest theater performances throughout the country.

‘Hamilton’ is the story of America then, told by America now, as the official description states. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, this show has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre—a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics and education.

Taking on one of the leads is a local performer who is excited to bring her own personality and life experiences to the audiences of her hometown. Ta’Rea Campbell, a Philadelphia native and CAPA graduate is taking on the role of Angelica Schuyler in the the “Philip Cast” of the North American tour.

To give audiences a sneak peek of what to expect, Campbell sat down with Metro to discuss all things ‘Hamilton,’ which opens at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Academy of Music this week.

Shoba Narayan and Joseph Morales.Joan Marcus

Were you a ‘Hamilton’ fan before joining the cast? 

Hamilton is a great musical—it is the biggest musical of the time. Of course, it was everybody’s dream to be involved with the show. [This show] is one where you go and you audition for whatever your agent sends you in for. Ever since I saw ‘Hamilton’ from the very first performance at the Public Theater, I knew it was a fantastic show.

What do you like about the show?

I like the music and I love the staging of it—I think it’s simple and in the simplicity of it, it’s beautiful and effective. I love the score and I love the representation onstage of people who are of color.

What can you tell about your character specifically?

I play Angelica Schuyler, who is the oldest of the Schuyler sisters. She is a strong, feared woman which is wonderful to be able to play a role like that. There aren’t that many roles written with those characteristics in mind and so its always an honor to bring her to life every night. People who lived in the 1700 and 1800s, sometimes we don’t really know what they were like because there’s not a lot written about them. So, to be able to flesh her out in my personal and unique way is a joy.

There are a lot of women who get to play Angelica Schuyler in the different companies of ‘Hamilton,’ and we all play her a little different—I think that’s wonderful. To bring your own life experiences to her while still keeping in the framework of what the role really is… as an actor we audition for roles that we like or that we think would be fun to play or what we’re drawn too.

What are some moments or songs from the show that you’re excited for audiences to see?

I think people who have not seen ‘Hamilton’ can only go by what they hear from the soundtrack and they try to figure out what’s happening. The song ‘Satisfied’ and ‘Helpless’ are two songs that are back-to-back and they’re telling the same event but from two different perspectives. I don’t think people understand how we pull it off until they see it. So, that’s always a really great part of the show that we get to perform. But I like the first part of the show ‘Alexander Hamilton’, because we’re introducing ourselves as 20-30 people onstage who are going to be taking you on a journey. We’re story tellers. We’re all sort of wearing the same color and we line up in a line and then we take on our role. I think that’s cool.

Joan Marcus

How does it feel for you to be able to be back on stage after the shutdowns due to COVID?

I think the pandemic was hard for anyone and I don’t necessarily put it in the perspective of an artist not being able to perform. I think this pandemic hit the world very hard and we all lost something, whether it was people who got sick, people who lost loved ones, people who lost income, people who lost businesses—it’s all been hard for everyone and for me to be able to come back on stage and bring a little bit of joy to people is wonderful.

But it’s not lost on me that this pandemic is still happening and people are still suffering. So if people are lucky enough to afford to come see ‘Hamilton,’ I hope we’re able to give them an escape from this existence that we now have. Just to take their minds off of it for a while before they have to go back to what still is a pandemic in 2021. When you have different actors they bring different energy and different life experiences to the role. I think the Phillip Company of Hamilton has great dancers and a wonderful ensemble of great musicians, but I could say that about all of the other companies of ‘Hamilton,’ too. We’re still all marching towards the same goal of telling the story of Alexander Hamilton and the people in his life.

‘Hamilton’ opens at the Academy of Music Oct. 20 and will run until Nov. 28. 

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