There’s a new tribute band in town, inspired by the music of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton: An American Musical. They’ll premiere The Alexander Project at Crescent Ballroom on Friday, June 21, before taking the show on tour in California.
It’s directed and produced by Chanel Bragg, a Phoenix-based performance artist who helped create a 90-minute musical revue called History Has Its Eyes on You , which premiered at The Van Buren in January. “That show was geared toward families, but now we’re going back to the organic, grungy hip-hop idea,” Bragg says.
“The new name makes more sense now that we’re a tribute band,” she adds.
The tribute concert includes music from the original Broadway soundtrack, an album of covers called The Hamilton Mixtape, and a series of single releases called Hamildrops.
They’re all part of the growing Hamilton phenomenon, which started the day Lin-Manuel Miranda, a New York-based artist with Puerto Rican roots, sang a rap for President Barack Obama at the White House in May 2009.
At the time, Miranda was thinking he’d do a concept album inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton, a book he’d read on vacation the previous year. Instead, Miranda wrote the music, lyrics, and book for Hamilton, which opened on Broadway in 2015.
The musical explores Hamilton’s immigrant roots, his role in creating American democracy, and his circle of influence. Hamilton features primarily artists of color, and The Alexander Project follows suit.
The cast includes Alex Ncube, a creative with Tempe roots who performed in the first national tour for The Book of Mormon. It also includes Ryan Alvarado, who was on the first national tour for Hamilton. Several others, including Bragg, perform as well.
The Alexander Project blends live music, dance, and DJ performance, with musical direction by Steven Himmelstein, who also does samples and plays guitar in the four-piece band. The DJ is Kimberly Robbins, who goes by Kim Fresh.
After performing at Crescent Ballroom, the creatives will undertake a series of June concerts in California, stopping in Santa Barbara, San Diego, Fresno, and Sacramento.
For Bragg, creating the tribute band was a way of honoring her own roots. “I’m a kid from the ‘hood who grew up on the west side of Phoenix,” she says. “The music of Hamilton resonated with me because I grew up with it.”
Plenty of musical theater fans adore Hamilton, but that’s not where Bragg is coming from. “I got made fun of because I liked musical theater as a black kid, so when I was conceptualizing this, the focus really had to be on hip-hop.”
The concert runs about two hours, but don’t expect set changes or costumes.
“It’s a bunch of badass vocalists singing with a band.”
The Alexander Project: A Tribute to the Music of Hamilton. Friday, June 21, 8:30 p.m. Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets are $24 to $39. For ages 13 and up. Visit crescentphx.com.
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