It has been a couple of months since he received the big news, but Cal State Fullerton alumni Ruben J. Carbajal still does not believe his dreams of performing in the first U.S. national tour of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” have come true.
The Los Angeles native, who graduated from CSUF in 2015 with a bachelor’s of fine arts in theater, said he has long been a huge fan of both the musical and “Hamilton” playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda. When he was 16, Carbajal even met face-to-face with his idol, when Miranda starred in the Los Angeles leg of the national tour of his hit Broadway musical “In the Heights.”
“I watched him perform at the Pantages Theatre, then met him at the stage door after, told him he was my idol, and took a picture with him,” Carbajal said in an email interview. “It’s crazy how full-circle this has all become.”
In 2014, Carbajal played the role of the sassy Sonny in the Chance Theater of Anaheim’s adaptation of “In the Heights” – another step closer to relating personally with Miranda. He said he followed the “Hamilton” musical closely as well, including seeing it twice on Broadway.
“I’ve been a fan of the musical since it was just a glimmer of a show in 2009. I’ve listened to the cast recording at least once every day since it came out over a year ago; so to finally see the show live was life-changing,” Carbajal said.
Life continued to change for the 23-year-old when, last April, Carbajal went to an open casting call in Los Angeles for the “Hamilton” national tour, where more than 700 hopeful actors showed up. He brought his own song to perform and, much like an “American Idol” tryout, he was moved from room to room to sing until he was invited to audition in New York City.
“I flew to N.Y.C. for what turned out to be four callbacks in total. I sang for Alex Lacamoire and Thomas Kail a couple times, who are the orchestrator and music supervisor and the director,” said Carbajal.
Finally, Carbajal got the ultimate callback:
“On May 24, I sang for producers Alex, Thomas, and, wait for it, Lin-Manuel Miranda. That experience was one that I will never forget,” Carbajal said. “I had a few more auditions after that, most recently in November, running my audition count to 10 total auditions for ‘Hamilton.’”
“I cried. My agents brought me into their office for a meeting and voiceover audition, and they dropped the news on me in person. I was flooded with gratefulness and tears. It was truly a culmination of dreams coming true.”
In the first act, Carbajal will play John Laurens, a fierce abolitionist and revolutionary fighter, and in the second act, he will perform as Philip Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son.
“I connect to both of these characters,” he said. “John Laurens is a defined leader and an even better friend. Philip Hamilton is his father’s pride and joy. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders and wants to make his father proud. Both characters have similarities and I think I can bring a relentlessness and youthful innocence to both.”
Intense rehearsals began in January for the cast and creative team, as they prepare to launch the U.S. tour at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre on March 10 for a five-month run. Carbajal said the cast has made rehearsals very fun and efficient as they learn about 50 songs and dance numbers together.
After San Francisco, the tour will make its way to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Aug. 11 for another four and a half months. The San Diego Civic Theatre will host the tour for three weeks in January 2018, and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts will host it on May 8-27, 2018.
Carbajal, who grew up watching shows at the Pantages Theatre and Segerstrom Center, said performing on these stages will be surreal.
“It means the world. I’ve seen a handful of shows at the Pantages and Segerstrom and each time I am just blown away by the talent and beauty of the shows,” he said. “I walk away so inspired by the art I get to see. I can just imagine what it’s going to feel like being on the opposite side of that,.”
“It’s a dream come true, really. I’ve been backstage at each of the theatres I mentioned, and have gotten to stand on their stages. They are huge. And each time I’ve stood there, I’ve wondered what it would be like to perform and do what I love on their stages. And now I get to do just that.”
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