Photo courtesy of Dean Ray Photography
Photo courtesy of Dean Ray Photography

APU Alumnus Performs in Hamilton National Tour

by Nathan Foster

When Azusa Pacific University alumnus Darnell Abraham ’09 took the stage as George Washington in a national tour of Hamilton, alongside renowned Broadway actor and Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda, it was a dream come true. Abraham’s elation was evidenced by his Facebook post after his first performance.

“What an incredible experience!! I feel so honored to have made my George Washington #debut here in Puerto Rico with THE Lin-Manuel in the title role and such an amazing cast & crew of friends and colleagues,” Abraham said. “Thank you to the audience members that went on this journey with us.You are the best part! But most importantly, thank you GOD!”

Abraham, 33, who serves as a principal standby in the Hamilton cast, has worked as a professional actor for almost a decade. In 2011, two years after graduating from APU, he moved to New York with his wife Wanda. He left his job in APU’s Office of University Advancement to attend the Manhattan School of Music and pursue his dream of becoming a Broadway actor, ready to embrace the unpredictable nature of this career.

“That’s the life of the actor--we go where the work is,” Abraham said. “It’s always fun and exciting. There’s never a dull moment.”

Abraham has starred as “Coalhouse” in Ragtime, “Martin Luther King Jr.” in I Dream, “Jake” in Sideshow, “the Doctor” in Next to Normal and “Nakawa” in Festival of the Lion King. His biggest role before Hamilton came at the beginning of 2017, when he joined a nationwide tour of the Tony Award winning show, The Color Purple. He performed as “Adam” across the country, including shows in his native California. Wanda accompanied him on the road, working as the merchandise manager for the tour. They saw this as his big break, and a launching pad to Broadway.

“People ask, ‘Why Broadway? What’s so special about Broadway,” Abraham said. “For me, it’s kind of like athletics. You have college Division I sports, then major league sports and then there’s the Olympics. I like to think of Broadway as the Olympics. I’ve had a chance to do Division I types of shows and some major league shows. Now I’m ready for the Olympics.”

Abraham said he enjoyed taking on the roles of George Washington and Aaron Burr in Hamilton and he also loved playing “Coalhouse.” However, he learned the most about himself playing MLK Jr. in I Dream. Abraham draws upon MLK Jr. as inspiration for his work.

“I feel like if MLK could do it, then so can I. It may not look the same, but MLK allowed himself to be used by God. I, as an artist, can allow myself to be used by God as well.”

Nathan Foster is a dual major in journalism and public relations. He is a public relations intern for University Relations.