Hamilton's Helpers

September 1, 2016

From the left: Actress Jasmine Cephas Jones, Alex Lacamoire, bassist Richard Hammond, and guitarist Robin Macatangay

©Tea for Two Photography

In addition to Alex Lacamoire, several other Berklee alumni contributed in various capacities to making Hamilton a success.

The most visible of the bunch is singer and actress Jasmine Cephas Jones ’09, who appears onstage playing Peggy Schuyler and later, Maria Reynolds. As the character Peggy, Cephas Jones is cast as the youngest of the three Schuyler sisters. (Eiza Schuyler later becomes Alexander Hamilton’s wife.) Over the funky groove of “The Schuyler Sisters,” which introduces the trio to the audience, they harmonize and trade lines antiphonally with other characters. The song ends with the sisters singing a three-part riff that gives a stylistic nod to the music of Destiny’s Child.

Lin-Manuel Miranda heard the three actresses who portray the Schuyler sisters harmonizing on R&B songs in their dressing room during Hamilton’s run at the Public Theater before it moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre. He and Lacamoire rearranged their number as a showcase for their harmonizing abilities.

In the second act, Cephas Jones plays Maria Reynolds, Hamilton’s mistress. Maria’s character is a stark contrast to the sweet and innocent Peggy Schuyler. Cephas Jones acts as a temptress to Hamilton, and their long-term affair begins the unraveling of Hamilton’s life. Cephas Jones is prominently featured in the R&B song “Say No to This.” The number chronicles Maria’s seduction of Hamilton and his subsequent blackmailing by Maria’s unscrupulous husband, James Reynolds.

No stranger to showbiz, Cephas Jones is the daughter of actor Ron Cephas Jones, who has worked in movies, TV, and theatrical productions in Chicago, as well as in off-Broadway shows. Her mother is the jazz singer Kim Lesley. Jasmine came to Berklee for vocal training in jazz and R&B. Prior to her work on Hamilton, she had roles in the TV shows The Blacklist and Blue Bloods and in the movies Titus, Fairfield, and Mistress America.

Several other alumni have contributed to the show. Core members of the pit orchestra are bassist Richard Hammond ’96 and guitarist Robin Macatangay ’90. Robert Morris ’94 and Giancarlo de Trizio ’10 are subs in the pit band covering the guitar and drum chairs respectively.

Helping out behind the scenes are Mike Moise ’15, an accompanist for rehearsals and auditions who also conducts the show periodically. The most recent grad of the lot, he is the youngest alumnus working on the show.

Assisting as a coproducer alongside Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Grammy-winning cast album was Bill Sherman, who attended a Berklee summer program. Tim Latham ’89 mixed the cast album. Khiyon Hursey ’14 was a music assistant for the show and the cast album. Will Wells ’11 did music production and editing of the loops and drum samples heard in the show and on the album. Enrico de Trizio ’10 (brother of drum sub Giancarlo de Trizio) serves as a rehearsal musician running the loops and samples.

Aubin Wise ’14 is an understudy for all three female leads in Hamilton’s Chicago company.

This article appeared in our alumni magazine, Berklee Today Fall 2016. Learn more about Berklee Today.
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