‘Hamilton’ opening night brings famous faces to Chicago

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Comedians Mario Cantone (left) and Jeff Garlin embrace at the opening night of “Hamilton” at the PrivateBank Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 19. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Politics and entertainment collided at the Chicago opening of the Broadway hit “Hamilton” Wednesday night — and not just on the stage.

Familiar faces from theater, television and even politics were among the crowd filing into The PrivateBank Theatre. Mayor Rahm Emanuel elected to skip a presidential debate and a Cubs playoff game in favor of an opening-night seat, as did Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“This makes history accessible to kids … and adults,” said Madigan, who was looking forward to seeing the show for the first time.

Greg Cameron, executive director of the Joffrey Ballet, agreed that the show has an ability to introduce people to history they may not interact with otherwise.

Greg Cameron, executive director of the Joffrey Ballet, at the opening night of “Hamilton.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Greg Cameron, executive director of the Joffrey Ballet, at the opening night of “Hamilton.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

“I didn’t read the book,” Cameron said, referring to the 2004 biography by Ron Chernow on which Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical is based.

“All the elements line up in perfect harmony.” Cameron added. “Powerful story, beautiful lyrics, amazing choreography. It makes it relevant.”

Barbara Gaines and Bob Mason of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at the opening night of “Hamilton.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Barbara Gaines and Bob Mason of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at the opening night of “Hamilton.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

“Hamilton’s” ability to connect history with modern themes is what most impresses Chicago Shakespeare Theater artistic director Barbara Gaines, who was not shy about her admiration for the show. “It is the greatest American musical in history,” said Gaines. “I wish every high school student could see this show.”

It was the third time seeing the show for comedian and “Sex and the City” actor Mario Cantone and the second for his husband, actor Jerry Dixon. Cantone and Dixon have friends in the cast, and Dixon has performed with Miguel Cervantes, who plays the lead role of Alexander Hamilton in the new Chicago cast.

Others in attendance included chef Rick Bayless, Marc and Maureen Schulman of Eli’s Cheesecake and comedian Jeff Garlin.

Garlin, seeing the show for the first time, vowed to be on his best behavior. “I promise I’ll turn my phone off,” said the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actor, who admitted attending was not an easy decision.

“I can’t believe I’m missing the Cubs game. But I thought it was more important to take my wife to see ‘Hamilton’ in Chicago.”

When asked if he was conflicted about missing the presidential debate, Garlin didn’t miss a beat.

“No. I have more questions about Hamilton than I do about the presidential debate.”


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