The actor playing Alexander Hamilton in the musical “Hamilton” struck a pose in front of the Hamilton statue at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture on Friday morning.
“This statue follows me everywhere,” actor Edred Utomi quipped.
It was a pretty surreal moment.
Utomi, who stars as Hamilton in the musical; Paul Oakley Stovall, who plays George Washington; and Tyler Belo, who portrays James Madison, stopped by the Richmond museum to live chat with Virginia students and explore the Hamilton-inspired exhibit “Founding Frenemies: Hamilton and The Virginians” currently on view.
The stars arrived in Richmond off a three-month run in Philadelphia, a city where the real Alexander Hamilton lived for many years.
“We thought it wasn’t going to get any better than that,” Stovall said. He strikes the commanding form of George Washington in the Richmond version of the musical. “But every time we say ‘Virginia’ [on stage], the crowd roars. It’s exhilarating. [It feels like] we’re not doing it for you, we’re doing it with you.”
Jamie Bosket, the president of the museum, led the trio on a personal tour of the “Founding Frenemies” exhibit, inspired by 10 songs from the musical. Bill Rasmussen, curator of the show, offered insider tidbits on items from the exhibit.
They pored over letters penned by Hamilton himself, a portrait of George Washington that the president particularly liked, and a rare $5,000 bill with the picture of James Madison on it. They also looked at newspaper spats between the Founding Fathers that resemble some of the modern-day tussles on Twitter.
“Hamilton would have been all over Twitter,” Utomi said of the very vocal and prolific Founding Father.
Bosket brought the three actors behind the scenes to explore just a few of the 9 million items from the museum’s collections in portrait storage. He shared his favorite, and perhaps most valuable item, from the collection: George Washington’s personal diary.
Stovall read a brief entry aloud: “Saturday the 12th. Exercised at about 11 o’clock with Martha and the children.”
“That’s a pretty good Saturday,” Stovall said.
They looked at newspaper reports of Hamilton’s shocking death from a duel. The news reached Richmond newspapers a week after his death.
Rasmussen talked about the challenge of putting the exhibit together, because there are so few personal effects from Hamilton’s life. Having died so suddenly, Hamilton wasn’t able to write his own memoir like Thomas Jefferson.
Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, published in 2004, aimed to uncover the truth about Hamilton’s life and his critical role in shaping the nation. That biography served as the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical “Hamilton,” now running in Richmond at the Altria Theater through Dec. 8.