Backstage with DeAundre’ Woods, lead of Broadway sensation ‘Hamilton’

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The time has come.

It goes without saying that anticipation is almost palpable for the national touring, history-changing, Broadway spectacular Hamilton to return to Orange County. 

The musical sensation first arrived in Costa Mesa for a run in 2018, performing to sold-out audiences at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (SCFTA). The production will return to the same stage for a two-week run, beginning Sept. 28 through Oct. 16. 

Written by multi Tony Award-winning writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cultural phenomenon tells the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton with a mix of addicting tunes that blend hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway. 

Broadway actor DeAundre’ Woods will fill the boots of Hamilton. 

Born and raised in Louisiana, Woods earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University. Joining the ‘And Peggy’ company of Hamilton in 2018,  he worked as a standby for the role of Aaron Burr. 

On Aug. 9 during the Hamilton U.S. tour, Woods was called to the front of the stage to star in the lead role. He will continue to not throw away his shot as Hamilton, performing at SCFTA for the two-week run. 

Orange County is buzzing about “Hamilton” returning to Segerstrom Center for the Arts; you can truly feel the excitement. 

Awesome. It’s the best when you’re on the way and you’re being welcomed, right? Like sometimes, when you got family coming over, and you’re like dreading it. Glad it’s not like that. (Laughs) I’m so happy. We’re excited to come.

Oh, no dread here. And I’m so excited for you! I’ve been scrolling through your Instagram posts and reading different interviews with you. You have to share, what was the first night like in the shoes of Hamilton?

My very first experience with Hamilton was the first night that I saw the show. I was not in it yet. I saw it on Broadway, but I have to go back to the first night that I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Hamilton. We got to do the show with him in Puerto Rico and I was a standby at that point. 

This was in January of 2019 and when he came out the crowd went nuts. Like they went on for like two, three minutes. And,that’s when I realized, I was like, oh, this is real life. You know? Because I mean, I had seen it on Broadway. I’ve seen a bootleg. I’ve seen all these things. There was no Disney Plus yet, so I was still riding legal. Now I’m doing it, and having had that experience, you never forget what it feels like. Right? So I don’t get a two, three minute applause, but I do know that people really love this show and it’s a really great to be a part of something really, really phenomenal.

Now that you star as lead, what do you think makes Hamilton particularly magical from other musicals? 

For one, I think it’s the substance and the content of what we’re saying, right? Like, this story is about love and forgiveness and loss and hope. And these are ideas and beliefs that we all share and that we all sort of want in our own lives. It is already so special. The material is so, so great, the music and the choreography and the way they’ve been able to design the show. 

And then another aspect is, just being a person of color and knowing that at the time that this story was happening in real life, that my ancestors weren’t even considered human beings, like people in general. So to be up there telling the birth of America and of a nation, I think it’s really touching to not only the actors, but to the kids and to the people who are watching this. I think there’s a little something for everybody from all backgrounds in all ages.

And it’s rap. It’s American history, but in hip hop form. So I didn’t learn much in school about history, but now I know so much because of this show. So it’s also just a lesson in humanity and also in history,

Love that. Now I’m sure that you’ve been asked this a billion times, but what are some unique aspects you bring to the role? 

Well what most people don’t know is that Hamilton was actually like a man of faith, right? Like he was a very spiritual person. I think specifically because he came from an area that had been hit by a hurricane, which was why Puerto Rico was so special because they had just been hit by hurricane Maria. And in the show, they talk about the hurricane that hit the Caribbean islands.

Me and my friends were talking about this, and how natural disasters like that are an act of God, right? Like that’s not something that a human put into place. I’m from Louisiana and have those experiences, like Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana the day after my birthday, and I know what a hurricane, or a natural disaster, could do to a city, to a family.

And being a man of faith, being a young man as well, I know what it’s like to be young and scrappy and hungry. So I think I just bring a fire and a passion to it that I won’t say that not everyone has, but that I feel like is pretty unique and special because I love it so much. I love what I do. I love the people around me too. So it’s just that passion and you can’t really train that. I went to school to study music, but you can’t study passion. Like it’s just something you come with. And so I think that’s a pretty special source and something I call on every day.

What are some challenges you have faced in this role? 

Ooh, many actually. For one, just doing it every day. Like, I was a standby before this, and so only recently, like five weeks ago, I took over for the role full time. So before, I covered Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 

Before this, I did the Motown musical, where I understudied other roles. But this show is so vast. The material is so dense and the roles are really challenging because of the depth that Lin wrote. I didn’t have those life experiences, So it was definitely a little bit of a challenge. But I just kind of had to learn as I go and try to apply and include anything that is helpful from my life that may be helpful for the show and the world.

Vocally, it’s tiring and physically, I don’t dance as much, but I know the dancers in the show work their butts off. It’s just a really demanding show, but it’s such a rewarding show. It’s not like we’re out there doing a show that we hate. We really love this thing.

So even when we’re tired, we know that someone’s coming and seeing it for the first time. And so we try to give our all, and try to give our hundred percent, because it could be our last time performing. I talk about that with my friends all the time. Like you take life for granted, like it’s gonna be here tomorrow. And sometimes that’s not the case for everyone. 

So whatever we have left in the tank, we’re giving. Even if it’s a challenge, it’s just not always about us. It’s definitely about the people that are there that may need to hear words of encouragement and receive some joy. So yeah, it’s helps with the challenges, but it’s very rewarding.

‘Hamilton’

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

When: September 28 – October 16, 2022

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday. Special Thursday Matinee September 29 at 1:30 p.m.

More info: scfta.org

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Jackie Moe is a professional entertainment reporter and editor who lives for live music, spaghetti, beef ribs, long distance running, and good stories. Working as a features reporter for major newspaper publications Orange County Register, Press-Enterprise and Los Angeles Times, and as an editor for a variety of magazines including OC Business Journal, Inland Empire Magazine and Parenting OC, she recognized the need for quality digital coverage for all of the truly fascinating people and events in and around Orange County. She created Backstage SoCal in 2017 to provide unique entertainment content beyond the general calendar items. You may contact her directly on her social media or email: socalnewsjackie@gmail.com

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