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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Antuan Raimone makes magic with 'Hamilton'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

This article shared 437 times since Wed Nov 9, 2016
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The story of Alexander Hamilton has become a phenomenon in the Broadway world. Hamilton, a musical from the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, has broken box-office records and will be running at least a year in Chicago. This year, it received a record setting 16 Tony nominations and won 11 of them. A national touring production will begin in San Francisco in 2017 and it also opens that same year in the West End.

Antuan Magic Raimone, an openly gay cast member and swing in Hamilton, has a background working with Miranda by performing on Broadway with In the Heights as well at its touring version. His musical theater credits include Hairspray, Dreamgirls and La Cage aux Folles.

Windy City Times: Hi, Antuan. Start off with your background and where you are from.

Antuan Magic Raimone: I'm 36, and as far as I know I'm Black and also Native American, though I'm interested to know more about my heritage. I was born and raised in Kansas City, specifically Blue Springs, Missouri.

WCT: Did you study performing arts?

AMR: My introduction to performing arts started at my high school at Blue Springs South. It wasn't a performing arts school, but there is a performing arts center built onto the school. The first musical I was ever in was Annie and I was in the dancing ensemble. Having grown up singing in church, I loved to sing and I also loved to dance. Before high school, I only thought someone could make money as a dancer in music videos, so my dream was to be a dancer for Janet Jackson.

Once I got to high school, I realized that there was an entire musical theater world where I could sing, act and dance at the same time and that was exactly what I wanted to do.

My love for musical theater only deepened with each musical I did in high school, which were Guys and Dolls, Crazy For You and Hello, Dolly!

After I graduated high school, I attended Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State University. I graduated with a B.F.A. in musical theater and with no minor. I knew that this would be my career, regardless of how improbable it might seem.

WCT: Where did the name "Magic" come from?

AMR: Michael Balderrama, who is our choreography supervisor for the Chicago company of Hamilton, was also my dance captain for In the Heights and gave me the nickname of "Magic" because of my ability to learn choreography quickly and also remember the details of what I've learned.

I learned my first role for In the Heights in about two weeks and what I didn't know at the time was that that wasn't normal. That is a gift that I have, not something I learned over the years and that gift is probably the largest factor that lead me to this role.

WCT: Did being a cast member of In the Heights also help lead you to this role?

AMR: If I really thought about it, I'm sure that many factors lead me to this role and being in the cast of In the Heights can't go unnoticed. As most performers might say, being a part of one show doesn't guarantee that you will be a part of the next one, even when you have worked so closely with the original creative team.

Until I reach the level of a Gregory Hines or Ben Vereen, I fully expect to have to audition for any job that I want to get, regardless of the professional relationships I've cultivated over my career. I am always hopeful that I'll get the job I've auditioned for, and also know that there is more to it than hope alone.

WCT: How long were you in the cast of In the Heights?

AMR: I spent nearly five years working with In the Heights, as a vacation swing Off Broadway, then Broadway. I was with the first national tour for six months as a swing, I understudied Graffiti Pete and was also the assistant dance captain. And after that I was the assistant choreographer for the non-Equity tour of the show as well. I'd never known a show as well as I knew In the Heights and it was such a gift.

I have worked with at least four generations of that show and to be a part of that is a priceless gift. And with all of that time spent with In the Heights, I had no certainty that I would be a part of Hamilton. I am very confident in my skills and abilities as a performer, and I also understand that there are a multitude of factors that go into casting a show that I have no control over, such as am I the look they want, or am I tall enough.

Walking into the audition room I can only control what I do in the room. I have control over learning the dance combination quickly enough to be able to create some sort of character that will fit what they are possibly looking for. And when singing, it's up to me to know the song I'm singing well enough to perform it comfortably and confidently in the moment. I possess a very special set of skills as a performer that the creative team for Hamilton felt would make me the perfect universal swing.

WCT: How fast was the audition process?

AMR: On July 28, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. I attended my first audition for the show. On Aug. 1 my agent called me to tell me that there was an offer for me to immediately join the company of Hamilton.

My first day of rehearsal would be Aug. 2. That means that in a short four days after my first audition for the show, I was hired and asked to start rehearsals!

WCT: Describe being in a show with this much hype.

AMR: I don't know that it has fully hit me, but it is coming in bits and pieces and it usually ends in tears of joy, appreciation, humility, and disbelief. I've always known that I have people supporting me in what I do, but it was never as tangible as after I posted on Facebook that I was hired for the show. The way in which people expressed their love and congratulations was overwhelming and after only reading a fraction of them, I sat in my bedroom in New York and cried for at least five minutes.

WCT: As a swing, how often are you performing in the show and what roles have you had to learn?

AMR: There is no way of knowing how often I'll be performing. In fact, if I'm onstage, it's because something bad has happened, so it's actually a good thing when I'm not onstage.

I could get a text at 5:30 p.m. telling me that I'll be on for someone for the show that starts at 7:30, or I could even go into the show in the middle of it if someone were to get hurt, which is never an optimal situation. Right now I have learned one role in the male ensemble and I will eventually work my way up to knowing a total of six.

WCT: Have you been around Lin much and what can you tell people about him?

AMR: I've spent a lot of time with Lin onstage and a decent amount of time with him offstage and what I can tell you is that he's a genuine person. His reality is greater than most anyone can imagine and yet he will come to a rehearsal just to watch the work being done by the people in the room. Whatever video footage you have seen of him is who he is in person so I don't really think I could add much new information to that.

WCT: Have you spent much time in Chicago in the past?

AMR: The last time I was in Chicago was in 2008 and I was here as a dancer in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which was playing at the Rosemont Theatre. I was only here for three weeks and didn't get to see much of Chicago while I was here.

WCT: Do you have any plans for free time?

AMR: I have several friends that I went to college with that live here and have been able to see a few of them since I've been here and want to spend time with more of them. I've been told about the architecture tour and that has me intrigued, and I was recently told about an indoor skydiving center and that's been something I've wanted to do for a while, so I hope to have the time for that.

WCT: With several gay members in the cast, are there any plans for visiting the bar Sidetrack?

AMR: I've actually been twice myself! And as it turned out, as I left Sidetrack on my first visit I picked up the Windy City Times, so it's a wonderful coincidence that I was asked for an interview.

WCT: What was Divapalooza?

AMR: That was a cabaret benefit that I participated in so long ago that I'd actually forgotten about it until you asked. [Laughs] I've participated in enough cabarets and benefit events over the years that it's a little hard to remember each one.

WCT: So do you have any plans for benefits in Chicago while here?

AMR: There aren't any set plans for a benefit to happen right now, and that doesn't mean it won't ever happen. Right now the cast is focusing on getting the show up and running, as well as settling into the new lives we are creating here. There aren't any of us in the cast that were living in Chicago beforehand so we are creating new homes here and that will take time.

That being said, if I was asked to participate in one while I'm here that really peaked my interest and I had the time, I'd be more than happy to.

Visit for more information about Hamilton, currently playing at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.

This article shared 437 times since Wed Nov 9, 2016
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