'Hamilton' star Joshua Henry, B.M. '06

Henry Henry
 'Hamilton' star Joshua Henry on why kids in the audience bring him to tears

Joshua Henry, B.M. '06, is at a loss for words. It doesn’t happen often. The gregarious, golden-voiced actor who stars as Aaron Burr in the national tour of “Hamilton” opening Aug. 16 at the Hollywood Pantages is as hyper-articulate as he is humble. But the thought of “Hamilton” as a cultural force unlike anything before it — one that has the power to change the way children of color see themselves — has him all choked up.

Sitting in a booth at Sams American Eatery, down the street from the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, where for the last six months he has appeared onstage in one sold-out show after another, Henry takes a deep breath and shifts his gaze momentarily skyward to gather his thoughts.

“As a black man in this show, I’m excited for the little children of color that get to see me do this,” he says, explaining that their parents often take them to meet him at the backstage door. “They want their children to see what’s possible, they want them to know that you matter a lot, no matter what anybody says, you can be important, you’re valuable, you have something to contribute and that is the biggest.…”

He stops here, his eyes filling with emotion. “That’s the biggest thing for me with this show.”

He looks away and shakes his head ever so slightly, trying to clear the tears that fog his vision. Then he looks straight ahead and nods emphatically.

“Yeah,” he says.

The moment brings chills that linger in the brief silence that follows. These are the same chills audience members might feel who, having never seen “Hamilton” before, are suddenly confronted with a stage filled with actors of color on a scale they may never have seen before. Black actors, Asian actors, Latino, white — all singing about the founding of a country, their country, in a way that feels at once acutely familiar and completely fresh.

That’s the power of “Hamilton,” Henry says — the diversity onstage, as meticulously conceived by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Particularly when coupled with characters that until now have been universally associated with white masculinity.

“It’s an anomaly,” Henry says of the musical’s black Burr, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. “This cast telling a story of America then, the way it looks now.”

Henry goes on to say that for him the show is about inclusion and patriotism, about howwe all — regardless of where we’re from or what we look like — can succeed and do great things for their country.

In many ways, that’s what Henry feels like he’s doing in “Hamilton.” It’s not just a plum acting gig. It’s a calling. It’s what he was meant to do. He calls himself a spoke in a wheel that is much bigger than he is.

Continue reading the story on latimes.com  |  By Jessica Gelt