Ha-mil-ton. Three syllables, one syllable for each year it has dominated on Broadway. Since its inception, the show has been a hot ticket. Even the current touring productions are a hot ticket! We had to find out what all the fuss was about. Was it the music? The staging? The story? Well, it was everything. Unlike a traditional Broadway show where the music seems to only capture musical theatre officinados, Hamilton has captured the hearts and ears of those who wouldn’t have ever thought to give musicals a chance. With its utilization of urban genres often not heard in musical theatre, it opened the doors to younger listeners as well as those often ignored by the Broadway community. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with rap, hip-hop, r&b, funk, and rock, with larger-than-life witty rhymes competing with their own time signatures. It’s a show that requires stamina, incredible diction, and a memory like a steel trap.
We had the honor of talking to Sasha Hollinger, the woman currently playing the social media phenomenon, #TheBullet. For those of you who have yet to see the show, Hollinger holds her hand up in the shape of the bullet, communicating its trajectory to the audience.
As a veteran of the Hamilton cast, we talked to her about her training for the role, the costumes she dons on a daily basis, her fan community on social media, and why it’s time her friends stop treating her like Ticketmaster.
Q&A with Sasha Hollinger
What training went into playing #TheBullet?
Before I started the show, they started doing a Hamilton bootcamp. I was involved in the very first one. They put you onto a track that they think that you would be right for and you learn the music and choreography for six or seven numbers in the show. At that time, the OGs (original cast members) hadn’t left yet and [production] knew there was about to be a big group of people leaving. It was their way of getting ready-made replacements. I learned a lot of the major numbers in that bootcamp, and #TheBullet was very specific. There are three things you have to remember: you have to leave a certain amount of space in between your pointer finger and thumb, you can’t let them touch, and your other three fingers can’t have tension and can’t open. On the first day of bootcamp, I spent 15 minutes examining my hand, learning how to hold the bullet. You wouldn’t think it would be so specific but it is.
What kind of social media reactions have you seen to your role?
Ariana [DeBose, the original #TheBullet] is the one who made up the hashtag. She was great at branding that feature. #TheBullet wasn’t a thing until she made it one. I remember right before she was leaving, she shared that I was the new #TheBullet to her followers. In six hours, I went from 400 followers to 1800 followers. I had to make my account public because I was getting too many notifications. When people get invested in the show, people get invested in your life as well. It’s so crazy to have people who recognize you and fans sending you art. But I can literally walk out the door and have nobody recognize that I was in the show. The anonymity is real. I’ve had people ask me to take their picture in front of doors; they have no idea.
You’ve now been a part of two Lin-Manuel Miranda shows, Hamilton and Into the Heights. What would you say makes a show stand out as something written and produced by Miranda?
I think the music, for sure. Lin’s writing is insane.When you do a show for so long, you almost need a break from the music. There are some people who don’t want to listen to anything Hamilton outside of his building. After the Into the Heights tour, I hadn’t listened to anything Into the Heights for a couple of months. It came on as I was walking along 42nd Street and I started tearing up. I forgot how good the music is. It just brings about so many emotions when you hear it, overwhelming to all of your senses, there’s so much to take in. The words, the accompaniment, and there are certain phrases that still sit with me. I think because he [writes] musical theatre in a way that’s not musical-theatre-sounding. It connects to so many people that think they don’t like musical theatre.
This show requires a lot of stamina, purely for vocal dexterity. How much more effort does this book require than other musicals?
Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of words. Especially for Lafayette and Jefferson, they’re rapping a mile a minute. It’s so much to take in. If you’re an audience member and you haven’t listened to the soundtrack at all, you’re taking in everything that’s happening visually, which is a lot, and then everything that’s happening lyrically, which is a lot. You can’t take it in all at one time. It’s a lot of vocal stamina and I think that it’s a lot of words to remember to keep clear. We’re constantly getting vocal brush-ups.
In terms of visuals, the costumes are stunning. How complicated is the wardrobe? What do the audience’s eyes not see? Are there lots of corsets and layers?
In the second act, the corsets are on all the way from the top of the second act to “It’s Quiet Uptown”. We still have our corsets on underneath the vests, but we never change our pants. It gets more complicated for the principals. [The role of] Eliza has three different corsets and a bump, ‘cause her character is pregnant. Then there’s her tutu in the back. Ours is just taking on an off layers of vests.
What’s your favorite part about being in Hamilton?
The eduHAMs. Students have eight weeks of work and have to create presentations about the people in the show. Then they perform for each other on a Broadway stage and we perform the show just for the kids. I love getting to hear their questions as they are always so thoughtful, deep, and eloquent. I think it forces us to delve deep into our thought process. It’s encouraging to know that they’re thinking so deeply about what’s happening today in the world and what they’re about to see.
Hamilton is still a hard ticket to come by, even after three years. What’s it like being part of a show that’s so exclusive?
The family and friend request is like a double-edged sword. I’ve been doing the show for two and a half years and the ticket requests are insane. They come out of the woodwork and some want backstage tours. It’s a lot to keep track of. I’m not Ticketmaster!
[On the other hand], it makes you feel blessed and grateful because it means you’re going to have a job for a long time. You don’t have to worry about a closing notice; there’s not a lot of shows who can say that often. This kind of thing at this caliber does not happen all of the time. I think that putting that in perspective makes you feel really grateful. In this business, job security is not an easy thing to come by, to get into a show that people love. Whenever we beat another Broadway record, our company manger will announce it at intermission. There’s going to be a point in time where there’s just a long period [of waiting] as some shows have been on for 15 years. I think Hamilton can do it.
You can see Sasha Hollinger play #TheBullet as part of Hamilton’s Broadway cast at the Richard Rodgers theatre in New York City. Or, you can see Hamilton touring the U.S. currently in a city near you.
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