UA Theater Alum Plays Lead Role in National Tour of Broadway Smash “Hamilton”

Michael Luwoye was the star of the University of Alabama's production of "Othello" before he graduated. Today, he's headlining on tour in "Hamilton." Michael Luwoye was the star of the University of Alabama's production of "Othello" before he graduated. Today, he's headlining on tour in "Hamilton." Seth Panitch and the University of Alabama Department of Theater and Dance

Former University of Alabama theatre student Michael Luwoye made history as the first actor to be cast as both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in the national “Hamilton” tour. Luwoye, who is performing as the Alexander Hamilton alternate on Broadway, received his B.A. from UA in 2013.  

Since leaving Tuscaloosa, Michael Luwoye has also appeared off Broadway as Jacob in “Invisible Thread” – a role that earned him a 2016 Lucille Lortel Award nomination. He has also appeared in numerous regional theater productions. 

Seth Panitch, director of the undergraduate and graduate acting programs, worked with Luwoye in four different classes before his graduation. Panitch said Luwoye’s approach is old school, but in the best of ways. 

“Michael looks at acting from all angles and he’s not focused on the performance aspect as much as the transformative aspect. He makes sure he’s approached his character in every way before he gets on stage,” Panitch said. “He’s incredibly serious, not in a way that he doesn’t have fun, but that he’s driven and takes his work very seriously. That’s why the public and casting directors take it seriously as well.” 

Taking his work seriously didn’t start after he left Alabama, either. Panitch said Luwoye’s method of acting wasn’t different, but the way he approaches his acting speaks volumes. 

“It was the way he approached it that was different. The act of acting is simple. You decide how much of yourself you’re going to commit, and Michael was always 100 percent committed,” he said. “when he lost his voice while playing Othello for me, he rehearsed every night anyways with the understudy voicing his lines. He still wanted to keep creating that world for himself.” 

Though Luwoye’s world has grown since his opening night in Othello at the Marian Gallaway Theatre, Panitch said his success has been a long time coming. 

“I have a number of successful students, but you can’t have that career without that work ethic,” he said. “There are no short cuts in this industry, and Michael never took short cuts. It’s something that very few actors are prepared to do and he’s one of the few that is.” 

As graduation approached, Luwoye didn’t even want to move to New York. His second passion in music kept the Broadway star torn, unsure of his next move, Panitch said. 

“I told him to go to New York and to have the patience for any opportunity that comes to him. I figured with his ability to play larger-than-life characters, that New York theater would be a very good fit for him,” he said. “He attended our showcase and received some good feedback, so I think that pushed him in that direction and helped him make that decision.” 

Luwoye didn’t even audition for Hamilton or Burr. Originally, he auditioned for Hercules Mulligan/James Madison but couldn’t attend the New York callback. He auditioned for the role a second time and was asked to also read for the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. 

“Anytime you’re going to go into one of these parts, it’s a long term process,” Panitch said. “They offered him another role initially in Chicago that would probably play more often, but he turned it down to stay in New York. I think they looked at him differently after that and they came to him when something else came up. He doesn’t let himself get seduced very easily.”

Luwoye was asked to read for Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr in his last callback, and he began rehearsals for Hamilton and Burr in June 2016. “Hamilton” is one of the biggest smash hits ever on Broadway, winning 11 Tony Awards in 2016. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Hamilton.”  

Those who wish to catch the touring performances of “Hamilton” will need to travel. Performances began on March 10 at the SHN Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. The National Tour of “Hamilton” will play 22 weeks in San Francisco, followed by a 21-week engagement in Los Angeles.  

“There are two issues when kids aren’t making it in acting. Young actors have a preconceived notion of how it’s supposed to happen. They often focus on success instead of how it’s supposed to happen,” Panitch said. “They forget that it happens in round and whoever stays in the ring long enough gets the success. You have to keep working. You’re not going to get the things you got before without working hard than you ever have before.” 

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Tori Linville

A graduate of The University of Alabama, Tori is a professional in the publishing industry and brings strong writing and editing skills while contributing creative ideas, contemporary concepts, and editorial experience to her varied projects.

Website: www.linkedin.com/in/avlinville

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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