By Brittany Kapa for The Northbrook Tower
Broadway Break Thru present two actors from Chicago’s “Hamilton” to teach local aspiring thespians how to follow, and work toward, their dreams in a series of master classes held in Northbrook.
Rootz, a Northbrook-based enrichment center, along with Relevé Dance, hosted Kyle Weiler and Mallory Michaellann Brophy, both of Chicago’s “Hamilton” cast, Monday, Jan. 21 in back-to-back master class experiences.
“Broadway Break Thru had contacted us, and asked us if we would be interested,” Lisa Panizo, the executive director of Rootz, said about the partnership. “We said, ‘Of course,” and for us it’s such an awesome opportunity for our kids to really see that hard work and perseverance really does pay off.”
Just a few years ago “Hamilton” hit the Broadway scene hard, and for veterans of the industry, it’s been a surprise the show has had such a lasting hold on pop culture since its 2015 debut.
“It’s still kind of amazing to me that ‘Hamilton’ is still such a thing,” Brophy said. “I’m going to say that there have never been a show that has taken over pop culture like ‘Hamilton’ has, so it was just really the dream for me.”
And as Brophy could see all too well in the workshops, the young participants have a dream similar to hers. “Some of those kids in that room know the lyrics better than I do,” Brophy said. Sharing that experience with a younger generation was just as thrilling for Weiler and Brophy as it was for the children in the master classes. “It was such a cool experience, we all have bodies and we can all move, and so that’s a great equalizer,” Weiler said. “I haven’t been able to do it for a long time, so this was great.”
Margot Kesselman is one of those dreamers. Kesselman, 10, of Northbrook, took the Triple Threat Master Class, which focused on one particular scene from “Hamilton,” and taught the kids some choreography from the show, how to perform the lines and work together as a group to perform for their peers. It was a good, but challenging experience for all.
Kesselman knew the piece word for word before entering the class, and the experience of meeting some of the members of “Hamilton” only added to her excitement for the day.
“I was extremely excited because when I went to ‘Hamilton,’ I met a bunch of people, but I still wanted to meet more because it was so cool,” Kesselman said.
The choreography was a welcome challenge, Kesselman admits.
“I loved singing and being with everyone, and the cast of “Hamilton,” because it’s awesome,” she said. “It was kind of hard, but it was really fun to learn new stuff.”
Hannah Tenenbaum, 10, of Deerfield, felt the same way about learning the dance despite having a dance background.
“It was exciting, but also hard,” she said. “The dance is fast — it’s super fast. It’s not hard, but it’s how fast the music is, and I didn’t know it was that fast.”
It wasn’t just the children who took something away from the day. Weiler, a native of Minnesota, spent a lot of time teaching in local theaters when he was younger and even through college. Every time he shares his craft with others, he learns a little bit more himself.
“I think I learned how to be a better performer by teaching a lot,” he said. “The idea of how to control the room, and, like, are people listening to me? Will they be receptive? That was a big part of my life.”
Brophy admits she struggles with being at the front of the room, but pushes through to prove to herself, and those younger than her, that she can command a room.
“As a female at the top of the room a lot of people don’t listen to you, and so that’s been a learning experience for me as a woman and being in charge,” Borphy said. Exposing young children to the arts is a mission Rootz takes seriously, and to have actors like Weiler and Brophy inspiring children to follow their dreams was the biggest takeaway of the day for everyone.
“We’ve never done something like this before … and we were absolutely blown away by not only the experience but the Broadway Break Thru staff,” Panizo said. “We’re big believers in arts for kids, whether it’s theater or dance, and for (the children) to know that they can really work hard on things, and see their dreams become a reality – and just seeing Kyle and Mallory be here and show the kids that – for us that’s a great experience.”