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Interview: Deejay Young of HAMILTON at Straz Center

Local Tampa native and Blake High School alumni returns home for encore of HAMILTON

Interview: Deejay Young of HAMILTON at Straz Center

Lin-Manuel Miranda's juggernaut musical HAMILTON is returning to Straz Center in Tampa on December 28 - January 22.

Interview: Deejay Young of HAMILTON at Straz Center Unless you've lived off the grid with no internet or newspaper access, you know that HAMILTON is a modern take on the historical story of America based on Ron Chernow's biography. It features a score that seamlessly blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and Broadway. The musical tells the story of America's founding father, Alexander Hamilton, in a profound way that has never been experienced before, winning Tony®, Grammy®, and Olivier Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an unprecedented special citation from the Kennedy Center Honors.

This encore production is extra special to performer Deejay Young, a swing for the pivotal roles of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison.

Interview: Deejay Young of HAMILTON at Straz Center The four-time Independent Music award winner is a Tampa native, a graduate of Howard W. Blake High School for the Performing Arts, and this is his first time performing for his hometown. The thirty-two year is also debuting a new album now and a related film later in January 2023.

Deejay fell in love with the musical when he saw it in Chicago in 2017.

"I remember seeing it and saying, 'I'm going to be in this show one day. I don't know when. I don't know how, but I must be in this show.' It spoke to me in a way that I hadn't experienced in a long time as it pertains to musical theatre."

When the actor got confirmation in July 2019 he would be in the historical musical, Deejay said that he was shocked.

"I flashed back to that (2017) moment and was so emotional. I was in disbelief that I would be in the biggest show ever, and the role that I had literally already manifested into existence. It was very surreal."

Interview: Deejay Young of HAMILTON at Straz Center Deejay made his HAMILTON debut in September 2019, performing six months before the pandemic closed Broadway and live theatre for two years. He is thrilled to be back on stage, though he misses the after-the-show stage door greetings. The cast meeting fans have been temporarily rescinded due to health safety protocols in place due to Covid. Fans will send messages to him via his Instagram.

"It's very sweet. It's very kind," he said. "They follow my journey, and it's very humbling. Many younger kids are so inspired when they see someone who looks like them on the stage. Many people of color see the show, and I get a lot of emotional messages when they see me as Hamilton.

I remember being younger and never thought I could lead a show or headline my own music. I boxed myself in because I didn't see a lot of representation. The beautiful thing about this show is that it gives people opportunities to be seen in likes that typically wouldn't be seen elsewhere. It's definitely a privilege when I see messages like that or have people who stop me and say, 'Oh my gosh, it was such a pleasure to see someone who looks like me up there.' Every interaction from fans of the show is super humbling, and it's great to hear back because they love the show. I've had nothing but kind interactions from every show fan."

Deejay said of all the roles, Aaron Burr has been the most interesting to portray.

"I feel like there are so many complexities and nuances within that character. I feel like he's often misinterpreted as singularly the bad guy, and there's more to him than that. Every character in the show, even though they're real people, we're showing different sides of these people through a different lens. He's such a human character in terms of why he did the things he did. By going through the things that he goes through in the show, I feel like you're able to find a way to understand him a little better and not just, 'oh, he's the guy that shot Hamilton.' There's just so much more to him, and I love giving the opportunity for people to see him in a different way."

When challenged to pick a particular favorite song, Deejay chose Aaron Burr's "Wait for It."

"There are so many really good one-liners in that song that you have to catch, and being in the moment when I'm performing on stage; I'm really honed into that. It's a great song."

When asked how he can memorize many characters' lines, songs, and choreography, Deejay said that it was challenging at first but later became second nature.

"It is very mind-boggling. I once said I would never be a swing because I thought I never could. It's funny how the mind works. Our minds are so powerful. It's just how you approach things. I just thought that this show was so difficult that I would never be able to grasp the choreography and lines of different people. I always say it's a humbling challenge. I'm so humbled to be able to know not just one role but multiple roles because I love the show so much. It's a lot of work, but I'm handling it with grace, and I am so grateful to see where I began and where I am now. It's night and day."

Deejay is thrilled to perform for family and friends coming to the production, play tourist guide for his fellow castmates, and potentially visit his high school ala mater.

"This is my first time. I always waited for the moment when they told us our tour would go to Tampa. I laid a lot of foundation and groundwork in Tampa. A lot of my family are coming to see my first show as Hamilton at the Straz. I'm just excited to go on that journey and allow people to see what I've been working on for so long. I can barely wait."

Deejay said that HAMILTON is a sensation because it is ground-breaking in terms of the approach to music and representation. The company allows the cast to be themselves.

"The company has graciously let us be our own individual selves and offer our own styles and vocals. That's what makes this so special. There's so much in the material that is just there; all you have to do is show up and be unique. That's what we're given the space to do every night, and I'm honored to be one of the artists to tell such a story that resonates with people."

When asked what he wanted the audience to take away from his performance, he said, "I just want Tampa to be proud. I've worked very hard for a very long time. I have my own music. I've done so many things within this Tampa community. I want people to see me in this show and just be proud that I am putting Tampa out there in a positive way and that I didn't give up on my dreams. This has always been a dream of mine. If anything, that's the only thing I want them to take away is that Deejay Young didn't give up. He's still going, and he's in HAMILTON."

HAMILTON is December 28 - January 22 at Straz Center. Get tickets to HAMILTON at®id=101& Follow Deejay Young on Instagram at whoizdeejayyoung. His latest chart-topping album, PRIMITIVE, is available on all digital outlets. Deejay will be back in Tampa on January 2, 2023, to debut his first film, HISSTORY: PRIMITIVE (inspired by the studio album), at AMC Westshore Theatre at 7:30 PM. Reserve your free spot at Space is limited.

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