With tour on hold, ‘Hamilton’ star plans musical happy hour
Edred Utomi, 28, honed his theater chops in San Diego before landing lead role in Tony-winning musical
March 13 has become an important day in the life of Edred Utomi, the San Diego-sprung star of “Hamilton.”
On March 13, 2018, the University of San Diego graduate landed a standby role in the first national tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Founding Fathers-centric musical, then landed the title role 10 months later. And on March 13, 2020, that tour came to an abrupt halt due to social distancing orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now on an indefinite break from the show he calls “the most difficult and the most fulfilling” job he’s ever had, Utomi is sheltering at home with his parents, who live in Chula Vista, and prepping for an online concert he’ll present at 5 p.m. Friday on Facebook Live.
The “Finally Friday Happy Hour” concert is part of a free online programming series that Moonlight Stage Productions is offering this spring. Moonlight has canceled the first two productions of its five-show summer season at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, so its artists are using their free time to give homebound theater-lovers their musical theater fix online.
Utomi, 28, said he is looking forward to the concert because it will give him a chance to reflect on the work he did here and thank the many San Diego theaters that gave him his professional start.
The son of Nigerian immigrants, Utomi grew up in Las Vegas and moved to San Diego to attend USD. That’s where he met his best friend, actor and fellow student Connor Sullivan, and Colleen Kollar Smith, who directed his first show at USD and is now the managing director of Moonlight Stage Productions.
From 2013 to 2017, Utomi was a regular presence on local stages, including roles in Intrepid Theatre’s “Midsummer” musical, San Diego Rep’s “My Mañana Comes,” the Old Globe’s “Grinch” musical, New Village Arts’ “Nutcracker” musical and Lamb’s Player’s “Pump Up the Volume.” He also did three shows at Moonlight: “Shrek,” “Sister Act” and “Peter Pan.”
Then in May 2017, he moved to New York with the express goal of being cast in “Hamilton.” Eight months later, that dream was realized. He started out as a standby for several male roles, then was elevated to the part of Alexander Hamilton on June 6, 2019.
“It’s been the dream realized and another dream come true,” he said in a phone interview this week. “It’s a roller coaster being away from family and friends. But I also get to travel around in a show I’m in love with and meet interesting people. I woudn’t change it and am looking forward to getting back to it at some point.”
Utomi said he’s always finding new ways to play Hamilton, who was also the ambitious son of immigrant parents. He finds new inspirations to draw on from his own life experiences, his ever-changing co-stars and the enthusiastic energy of the audiences. Although he plays the part eight shows a week, 52 weeks a year, Utomi said he has no desire to move on.
“Honestly, I’m happy with this role,” he said. “There’s so much more for me to mine there. I could do this for a year or two or three or five more and still not get it perfect.”
That being said, he has a long list of other dreams, including Broadway, film and television. He also has a shortlist of other theater roles he’d love to tackle: Simba in “The Lion King,” David Ruffin in “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” Fiero in “Wicked,” Emmet Forrest in “Legally Blonde,” Jack Kelly in “Newsies” and Benny in “In the Heights.”
For Friday’s concert, Utomi said he’ll probably sing something from “Hamilton” as well as something from “Shrek,” as a tribute to Moonlight. But the rest of the songs will be a surprise.
“I’ll talk about my journey, and I want to thank all the local theaters for helping me become the performer I am today. It’s my love letter to San Diego theater.”
To watch Utomi’s concert live at 5 p.m. Friday, go to facebook.com/moonlightstage/.
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