Interview: How HAMILTON Standby Marc delaCruz Took on Two Different Roles in the Same Night

Discover how he stays prepared to step into different roles at a moment's notice.

By: Dec. 28, 2023
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Interview: How HAMILTON Standby Marc delaCruz Took on Two Different Roles in the Same Night
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Understudies, swings, and standbys are some of the hardest working performers on Broadway, seamlessly balancing multiple duties, and always ready to jump into action- or character- at a moment's notice. 

Last week at Hamilton, standby Marc delaCruz was playing Alexander Hamilton (the role usually played by Miguel Cervantes), when Kyle Scatliffe, who plays Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, had to leave at intermission due to illness. delaCruz stepped into the role of Thomas Jefferson for Act 2, while Alexander Ferguson, ensemble member and understudy for Alexander Hamilton, stepped into the show's title role. With Ferguson playing Hamilton, Swing Adam Ali-Perez took over Ferguson's track. 

BroadwayWorld spoke with Marc delaCruz about the inner-workings of being a standby on Broadway. 

What is the first thing you knew you had to do to switch characters?

The first thing I knew I needed to do was change costumes! Our incredible wardrobe, sound, and hair teams didn’t miss a beat, and as soon as Act 1 came down they were swirling around me, taking and handing me costume pieces, helping me out of my Hamilton wig, and switching out my mic and transmitter. It happened so fast because they were all so on top of it. The mood was calm and lighthearted thanks to our awesome, ready-for-anything backstage crew. 

What are the most challenging and most rewarding parts of being a standby?

The most challenging part is not always knowing when you’ll be on, but still needing to be ready. Sometimes we know in advance if the onstage actor has a personal day or vacation scheduled, but most of the time we don’t know we’re on until the day of the show. I’ve gone on with less than half hour notice, and jumped in mid show a few times. I’m watching my phone all day for a text message saying I’m on and for whom, and every day I wake up and wonder “Will I be going on this intense emotional journey today?”  

It’s all part of the job, and it’s also very rewarding because as a cover for multiple roles I get to experience this incredible show from different vantage points. I’m constantly learning and discovering new things about the story and each character’s journey, and thanks to our incredible company who keep things fresh every night there are endless opportunities to play and discover things together. 

How do you keep yourself prepared for any situation in which you might need to step into a role at a moment’s notice? 

I approach every day as if I’m going to be onstage whether I know I’ll be on or not. I stay active, exercise and vocally warm up and sing every day. I review music on a regular basis and stay up to date with notes given from our resident creatives from past performances. Also, there are show monitors in the basement, stage management office, and dressing rooms so all of us standbys and swings can watch the show and keep up with what’s going on onstage, or I’ll watch parts of the show from the house.

I have so much awe and admiration for our onstage cast who deliver this show consistently with passion, presence, and technical mastery every day, and all of our swings and standbys who do the same as they jump into different tracks. My biggest hope when I go on is to meet all of them at their level. 
What have your experiences as a standby/swing/understudy taught you about yourself? 

One thing I’ve learned is that I can do hard things! Hamilton is a beautifully complex show as anyone who has learned it might tell you. I don’t know if I ever would have believed I could do this if this team didn’t give me the opportunity and have faith in me that I could do the job. Also, please remember that every Hamilton company has multiple swings and standbys so there are a lot of folks out there who do what I do. Any one of these covers would have done what happened last Tuesday beautifully—I just happened to be the one in the hot seat that night!

Here on Broadway my fellow principal standbys Jen Sese, J. Quinton Johnson, and J.J. Jeter jump in all the time and often switch tracks throughout the week. Our swings are constantly jumping in, some of them covering principals as well, and some of our onstage cast also cover other roles. Everyone of them has an understudy story to tell. I’ve also learned so much about what I can do as a performer. The roles in Hamilton cover a wide range of vocal styles, physicalities, and emotional experiences, and it’s been a wonderful challenge to figure out how I can tell the story truthfully and authentically and also consistent with brilliant structures that are already in place. This job has stretched me further as a performer than I ever thought I could go.

A third thing I’ve learned is how to roll with the punches. Sometimes you’ll go on last minute or even switch tracks mid show. Sometimes you go a week or two without stepping onstage. Some times (many times) you’ll get to the end of a show and just feel crappy about how you did. Sometimes you get to the end and feel proud of your work. The nervousness and self-criticism never go away, but I’ve become so much better at dealing with it. 

What is your favorite part about being a member of the company of Hamilton

I’d say it’s the people we work with. Everyone here, whether they work onstage or off, is not only extremely talented, but also have beautiful souls and spirits that shine in their own unique way. We come from a variety of different places. Some are raising kids. We all admire and support each other. We love to eat and we’re always making each other laugh. I don’t think a day goes by here without there being something to laugh about. 

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