Australian performer Jason Arrow has been announced as the lead in the international tour of the hit musical Hamilton, arriving in Abu Dhabi in January.
For Arrow, who is playing Alexander Hamilton himself, carving out his own niche and making the character his own was the biggest challenge.
After all, the success of the musical, which had its Broadway premiere in 2015, has often been attributed to the stellar original cast, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator.
The musical tells the story of American founding father Hamilton, from his days at King's College in New York in 1776 to becoming the first US treasury secretary, and his eventual death in 1804.
“Making it my own was the challenge for a long time,” Arrow tells The National.
But after about 500 performances so far in Australia and New Zealand, the actor says he has found his own voice in the popular character, despite originally auditioning for the role of Aaron Burr, Hamilton's archnemesis.
“I thought I related more to Aaron Burr as a person, but there are elements of me that are quite Hamilton – my partner and my friends can attest to that,” adds Arrow.
Asked how he's added his own spin to Hamilton, the actor says he tries to balance the intensity of the character with the lighter moments in the story.
The American founding father was famously known for his grit and determination. This is best demonstrated at the end of the show's first act during the Non-Stop number, which depicts Hamilton's overwhelmingly busy life.
“He is very intense,” Arrow says. “But at the start of the show, he has a lightness in him, which I think is him trying to get other people to like him because he is not a very socially apt person.”
This granular character study has allowed Arrow to play around Hamilton's highs and lows in the show.
“There are moments in the show where he would say something funny, and I really try to lean more into those and try to get the audience on his side, so that when things go wrong, you really hate him,” he says.
The actor, who had only been in two professional musical productions before landing the Hamilton gig, describes it as the biggest break in his career so far. Previously, he was in the Australian production of Disney's Aladdin.
He also admits that he had never seen other productions of the hit musical, only the Disney+ release that featured the original Broadway cast.
“I think it's a benefit because I had nothing to go off of other than Lin's performance,” Arrow says. “You don't want to come in the room with any preconceived ideas – you want to build the character with the other actors, so it's organic.”
The South Africa-born actor has come a long way since his first performance as Hamilton in March 2021, growing more comfortable with the role.
“I was nervous during the very first opening night in 2021, and after that, I was not really nervous, but anxious about the amount of words that I have to memorise,” he says with a chuckle.
The musical is rapped and sang throughout, and features 46 tracks, which draw heavily from hip-hop, R&B, pop and soul. The eclectic blend of such mainstream genres and the grandeur of the theatrical stage plays a huge part in its contemporary appeal.
Arrow is performing for the full international tour, with scheduled performances in Manila in September, before the company visits the UAE capital in January next year.
It will be the Australian actor's first time in the Middle East, and he is particularly excited about the UAE's vibrant supercar scene. “I want to get in a Lambo straight up,” he says, referring to the many Lamborghinis available to hire.
“Just checking out what Abu Dhabi has to offer, I'm actually very excited.”
Hamilton will be performed at Etihad Arena from January 17 to February 4