The calm before the storm: ‘Hamilton’ and the countdown until the first curtain rises

The view from Hollywood Boulevard, with "Hamilton" banners gracing the Pantages Theatre.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Among the costumed actors posing for pictures with tourists on Hollywood Boulevard, not one but two convincing Johnny Depp look-alikes — one dressed as Willy Wonka, the other as Edward Scissorhands — walked by the famed Chinese Theatre.

Alas, no Alexander Hamilton.

The man at the center of arguably the biggest sensation in musical theater history has, at long last, arrived at the nearby Pantages Theatre, where itbegins previews on Friday and officially opens Aug. 16, and Hollywood, as in the boulevard and the city, seems strangely calm. .

“Hamilton” has been playing to ecstatic and sold-out audiences in New York for more than two years and in Chicago for almost a year. The man behind the “Ham,” Lin-Manuel Miranda (wrote the music, lyrics and book) is rock-star famous with the fan frenzy escalating as the play won the Pulitzer Prize, 11 Tonys, a Grammy and triple-platinum sales status for a soundtrack that deftly blends hip-hop, R&B, pop and Broadway-style tunes.


But those expecting to see a photo-friendly Marquis de Lafayette, King George III or Aaron Burr wandering the neighborhood may be disappointed, at least for now. Shops aren’t loaded with the usual unauthorized T-shirts and mugs, employees at restaurants and other business don’t have much to report (though there was a single “Hamilton”-themed workout class hosted by the nearby Barry’s Bootcamp on Wednesday morning.)

Despite the enormous images that frame the Pantages, few seemed to know that “Hamilton” had descended on L.A.

But as Alexander Hamilton sings in the show, just you wait. Just you wait.

Arturo Torres works at the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street from the theater and has a prime vantage point from which to witness the black-silhouette banners of the Founding Fathers, Schuyler sisters and other Hamiltonia rise above the boulevard.

He was sweeping the sidewalk at 4 one recent morning, preparing to open the shop while the Pantages readied itself for the arrival of moving trucks carrying the “Hamilton” set. Did Torres know anything about “Hamilton”? Did he want to see it?

He broke into a huge smile.

“Oh, yes,” Torres said. He loves musicals and has seen “The Book of Mormon” and “The Bodyguard.” As for “Hamilton,” he already had tickets.

His company bought them for employees, he said. “Everyone is so excited for it.”

Business will boom after the production begins, he said. Based on what Torres had to report, those glazed old-fashioned, chocolate frosted and blueberry cake doughnuts apparently are as irresistible to theatergoers as (spoiler alert!) mistress Maria Reynolds was to Hamilton.


Robert Nunley, owner of the Frolic Room bar, also anticipates an uptick in business come Friday.

“A lot of people will be coming to see the show; hopefully they’ll want to stop in and have a drink before they go in,” he said with a laugh. “There are shows where people drink a lot and there are shows where people don’t drink. So hopefully it’s going to be a good crowd of people who drink.”

The bar is the Pantages’ closest neighbor, sharing a wall with the theater. Nunley has been the owner for 35 years, “so I’ve seen many many shows come out of the Pantages,” he said.

“The first time that ‘The Book of Mormon’ came it was very, very hyper. But this is well-known, ‘Hamilton’ is very well-known, so I’m excited.”

Fans of the musical hoping to catch it in L.A. will need to act soon. Many folks like Nunley have already snatched up tickets far in advance. In fact, the only non-resale tickets available are $650 to $750 for “premium” orchestra seats, and ticket resellers have already jacked up prices for inferior mezzanine seats to above $200. The tour’s L.A. run goes through Dec. 30 before moving on to San Diego.

Look for more than a dozen behind-the-scenes features, cast profiles and other articles on the national tour at


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Twitter: @debvankin


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