Nicholas Christopher is not giving away his shot. Currently touring as Aaron Burr in the smash-hit musical Hamilton, the singer and actor was born in Bermuda and moved to Winchester when he was 7. He attended Matignon High School in Cambridge before studying at the Boston Conservatory and moving to New York to attend the Juilliard School. A part of the Hamilton family since before Lin-Manuel Miranda even finished writing the show, his career has seen him originating roles in Motown: The Musical and starring as John in the 2017 revival of Miss Saigon. While he was on tour in Washington D.C., we caught up with Christopher about feuding audiences and Hamilton’s early incarnations ahead of the show’s eight-week run at the Boston Opera House from Sept. 18 to Nov. 18.
How did you get involved in the performing arts? Well, my dad is a singer and actor in Bermuda so from before I can remember we were going to see my dad perform. It’s kind of always been the family business because my older brother is a singer and an actor as well, and my sister was the head of her gospel choir at Boston College when she went there. So all of us are in the performing arts.
Were you nervous to join Hamilton’s tour? Not really. Because I was a part of the show before anybody knew about the show, before the show was actually in the state that it’s in right now. In 2013, I started doing developmental readings for the show. I think they had about five songs. It was still gonna be the Hamilton mixtape. [Hamilton author] Ron Chernow was in the room and commenting on the sequencing of certain songs and how things happened, giving us a little background. And Lin was writing most of these songs in one night and coming in and saying, “OK, how does this sound, how does this sound? OK, let’s change this around.” I realized I’ve played every male character now with the exception of Hamilton just from doing all those readings. There was a point when I was playing Hercules Mulligan, James Madison and the king all at one time.
How has the show changed from those early days? They flipped certain things around and they really focused the material. Lin is such a great writer, but I think the secret to his writing is his editing skills. When we did the first run-through of everything, the show was like 4 hours and 15 minutes long. What they were able to do was really focus the play. And so a certain line might be changed or a song might be cut, but they were able to efficiently tell the story with certain lines here or there that normally took a whole song to get across.
Favorite song in your current role? Definitely “The Room Where It Happens.”
Favorite song from any of your previous Hamilton roles? When I was playing Washington on Broadway, I really liked “Right Hand Man.” Just because it’s a great song, but also because the storytelling is so good.
Your current character tells Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” Do you have a philosophy you live by? I don’t do this on purpose, but a lot of times I’m having to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. [Laughs.] And there’s another philosophy that a great friend of mine, [writer, director and actor] Dick Scanlan, taught me, which is when beating yourself up about something it’s better to use a feather than a hammer.
How physically demanding is touring? It’s actually harder than I thought it was gonna be, just because you’re sleeping in a different bed every couple of weeks. You know, D.C. doesn’t have a lot of food options open late at night, so we’re kind of eating the same thing over and over again. But the good thing about touring—other than the physically demanding part—is that every couple of weeks we get a new opening night. So I think that revives the show and keeps the show exciting for us on stage. And we get to learn the different personalities of different audiences and explore each new city. It really keeps the show on stage exciting.
2018 FALL ARTS PREVIEW: DANCE | BOOKS | COMEDY | MUSIC | PERFORMING ARTS | PODCASTS | VISUAL ART