Hamilton is bringing a ‘Charlottean’ back Home
Starting October 10 all the way to November 4, the touring cast of ‘Hamilton’ will perform in Charlotte at the Belk Theatre, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. While this alone is great news for Charlotte residents, the Broadway Musical come with icing on top of the cake by featuring Willie Smith III – commonly known as Tre.
In an interview with Charlotte Magazine, Smith recounted his upbringing and time at Charlotte. The production’s ‘universal swing’ seemed excited when he explained, “This is where I saw my first musical as a kid, where I went to school, and where I first danced at church and in classes.”
Smith’s love for theatre performance started at an early age. “I remember seeing my first musical in Charlotte, which was ‘The Music Man,’ and there weren’t that many people of color on stage for me to see myself in. Then when I saw ‘The Lion King’ a few years later, I knew there was an opportunity for me.” He goes on to say, “Me being an African American male dancing in church, people thought I just did it for fun. Little did they know was that this was something I loved to do and wanted to make a career out of and make a life out of.”
Unsurprisingly, he spent his teenage years in the Northwest School of the Arts (now a dance studio), whereby he graduated with honors in 2005. According to Smith, his parents, Germaine Patterson Smith and Willie Smith Jr. helped him achieve his dreams of being a professional dancer. “My parents said they just want me to be the best at whatever I’m doing,”
After graduating from the University of Arts, Smith spent his time in New York City, working with dance companies from contemporary movement to ballet. But, his career in musicals is merely three years old. He remembers how he met Andy Blankenbuehler (Tony Award winner for ‘Hamilton’) at Broadway Dance Club and later on went to audition 10 times for ‘Hamilton.’
Currently, Smith plays the role of a universal swing in the widely acclaimed Broadway Musical, and it’s not an easy task. “With Hamilton, every step is created with intention…Every single component has a reason. But you’re seeing human experiences on that stage.” As a universal swing, he is expected to know up to 24 track of the show and perform in multiple understudy roles.
As Smith goes home, he is determined to make his parents proud by showing them “what they invested in.” But it’s not just his parents. “I’m able to put everything I learned in Charlotte, from my dance teacher to my piano teacher to my dance studio to church to everyone who played a part in raising me; I’m able to put all of that in action and to show them.” It’s expected that Smith with will receive a hearty welcome. “This was a world where my voice was heard. That’s very hard for an African-American male to find. To hear the audience screaming, and to see those young African-American boys see something that I didn’t get to see much of.”