What do Sting, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Big Bird all have in common? They’ve all worked with – or performed songs by – acclaimed arranger, composer and musical director Alex Lacamoire.
From Hamilton and The Greatest Showman to Sesame Street, he’s worked on a host of iconic musical moments; and Lacamoire’s latest project, Message In A Bottle, has just opened in London and runs until March 21.
The theatre-dance stage show, performed by ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company, features the music of The Police. “I’ve been a fan of Sting and The Police since I’ve been able to listen to the radio on my own,” he tells NME down the line from Miami.
A graduate of the esteemed Berklee College of Music, Lacamoire’s worked on massive Broadway shows likes Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton and was also musical director for acclaimed miniseries Fosse/Verdon. He’s got himself a mantlepiece of awards, including four Grammys, three Tonys and an Emmy.
Here Lacamoire tells us what it’s like to work on some of the biggest musicals in the world.
In The Heights (2005 – present)
What is it? Award winning musical by the team behind Hamilton about the Latino neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York.
What was it like working on it? “It’s like working with your friends. There’s nothing like working with people who you get along with – people with whom you have a shorthand and you don’t have to question what it is that you do. It’s the dream.”
My favourite moment? “There’s a moment where these three amazing songs are back to back. We have ‘96,000’ followed by ‘Paciencia y Fe’ followed by ‘When You’re Home’. They’re just such strong songs – it was really thrilling to be able to work on a show that had that wonderful a hybrid of musical styles with it.”
Hamilton (2015 – present)
What is it? Game changing hip-hop musical about American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
What was it like working on it? “When we were in rehearsal for Hamilton, before anyone seen it, I said to our director ‘listen, I know this is the best thing that Lin-Manuel Miranda has ever written. I know this is the proudest I am of anything I’ve ever done. But seriously, are people want to come and buy tickets to see a show about American history that tells the story through rap?’. It just didn’t seem like that viable an idea! But there’s something about Hamilton that really resonates with people. I’m so grateful…the impact of the show is unlike anything I experienced!”
My favourite moment? “’It’s Quiet Uptown’, because that’s a song where the arrangement and the orchestration of everything flowed out of me, because I thought Lin-Manuel’s song was so achingly beautiful, and so cleverly constructed.”
Dear Evan Hansen (2015 – present)
What is it? Tear-jerking, multi-Tony winning musical that sensitively explores mental illness.
What was it like working on it? “I thought it was a really wonderful experience because Justin [Paul, composer] and Benj [Pasek, lyricist] and Steven Levenson [book writer] are such hard workers and they’re so discerning, and they really go off on instinct and they think everything through. They have excellent taste, and the things they fight for are things worth fighting for.”
My favourite moment? “’You Will Be Found’ is a brilliant moment – the sound of it is really beautiful and overwhelming and gorgeous.”
The Greatest Showman (2017)
What is it? Box office dominating movie musical featuring Hugh Jackman as circus showman P. T. Barnum.
What was it like working on it? “It was challenging. It was my first time working in a big movie medium and learning there has to be a back and forth between how something sounds in your headphones and how something appears on the screen. It’s very different than when you have to deal with the visual, and you have to try to marry these two senses.”
My favourite moment? “All the songs are so good! I like ‘Come Alive’ a lot. I love the groove of that song and the production of it – the vocals are fantastic. I feel that I was able to contribute and add my flair to it. It was a team effort, but I really feel like I got a chance to be involved in that one.”
Sesame Street (from 2012)
What is it? Legendary children’s television show.
What was it like working on it? “Wonderful, it was challenging as a new platform for me; but I love the idea of being given lyrics and having to create something. It was liberating being able to dictate ‘Okay, I get the set with the tempo of the song. I get to decide on the key and the feel of it’.”
My favourite moment? “There’s a song that was composed in 15 minutes – an alphabet song that came out really quickly, but it’s gotten a massive amount of streams on YouTube so that’s a song I’m particularly proud of!”
What is it? Telly miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as director–choreographer Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as dancer Gwen Verdon.
What was it like working on it? “Again, very challenging. The schedule was very tight. I was putting finishing touches on episode one, while we were still composing music for episode four, while we were filming episode eight – there’s a lot to juggle at the same time.”
And a favourite moment? “I love the Pippin Medley because I’m a big, big, big fan of Pippin. I’ve been a huge fan of [Stephen] Schwartz for as long as I’ve been into musical theatre. So working on that episode, that was probably the one I was most excited to work on when I said yes to the project.”
Message In A Bottle is on until March 21 at The Peacock, London