Tony Award-winning musical 'Hamilton' debuts at ASU Gammage

The renowned musical, which combines hip-hop and history, is making its first college appearance

"Hamilton," the musical about the “ten-dollar founding father,” has made its way to ASU Gammage after much anticipation from history geeks, hip-hop fans and theater lovers alike. 

ASU is the only college campus that is showing the production of "Hamilton" as of now. 

The University was an early adapter of other renowned plays and musicals. It was one of the first institutions to accept "Rent" during its first national tour. It was an edgy choice at the time — but Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage, said she's always looking to bring new, exciting shows to ASU.

Jennings-Roggensack has seen "Hamilton" five times now and said the chance to put on the show at ASU is like a dream come true. 

“We do many shows, which are fantastic and amazing and wonderful, but then the hottest show in the history of Broadway, the juggernaut that the bar is set so high with 'Hamilton', the fact that we would get 'Hamilton' on its first year of touring is amazing. It’s those moments that you live for,” Jennings-Roggensack said. 

Even the Arizona Department of Transportation got excited for "Hamilton." It kicked off opening night by giving road hazard signs "Hamilton"-esque twists such as "Why do you drive like you’re running out of time?” and “Talk less drive more.” 

The signs caught the attention of "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Casey Thomas, assistant director of digital engagement at ASU Admission Services, was able to attend the opening night of "Hamilton" at Gammage. It was her first time attending the show, and she was excited to see what all the "Hamilton" hype was about.

Thomas said that "Hamilton" running at Gammage is a great opportunity for ASU.

“It's something that really sets Gammage and ASU apart from other places because we are the first college campus for it to be shown at,” Thomas said. “I think that really says a lot about the caliber of shows that come to Gammage ... It's the first run of it being out of New York, and they chose ASU.”

Jennings-Roggensack said Gammage is the perfect place for "Hamilton" because ASU has classes that teach about figures such as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, along with the Federalist Papers. ASU also owns its own copies of the original Federalist Papers.

ASU psychology freshman Katayoun Shamsa has been a fan of the musical for a while now, and she said she has extensive knowledge of the soundtrack.

She said she's excited to see the Schuyler sisters, because they are a great representation of "badass women." Shamsa is also excited to see a musical with a diverse cast. 

“'Hamilton' has crossed so many milestones, especially to people of color,” Shamsa said. “Being a person of color myself, I think it's amazing to see people of color in roles that are typically held by white males or white females. I'm excited to see how they have broken down gender roles and really highlight diversity.”

Shamsa said that the musical has also given actors of color a creative platform and represents rap music outside the mainstream. She also said she believes that the musical is a great way to encourage students to be more involved in history classes.

“It’s such an incredible way to learn about history of the United States where students will enjoy it and definitely will want to be able to go back and learn from the musical,” Shamsa said.

Jennings-Roggensack said that Lin-Manuel Miranda took two important American art forms — musical theater and hip-hop — and created something no one has ever seen before.

“I think that if you had asked the Broadway community, even 10 years ago, ‘Do you really think there can be a musical about a founding father ... and done in hip hop and (for) audiences of all ages, all backgrounds would love it?' – they would’ve said, ‘Nah,’” Jennings-Roggensack said. 

She said that she hopes viewers will leave the play understanding that history isn’t something that's read, but something that's lived.

“That they will take away from 'Hamilton' that you, one person, can make a difference," Jennings-Roggensack said. "One immigrant created the treasury for this country, which still stands today. Helped to write the Constitution, which still stands today. One person who didn’t come from money, didn’t have a silver spoon in his mouth, but instead worked his way and believed in his country. I hope people will come back with a deep belief in this country.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @jessiemy94 on Twitter. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @sabinegalvis on Twitter.

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