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Jevon McFerrin, a ‘Hamilton’ standby on Broadway, gets his big chance

Jevon McFerrin, an understudy in the Broadway musical

Jevon McFerrin, an understudy in the Broadway musical "Hamilton," got a chance to play the famous Founding Father. Credit: Jevon McFerrin Website

He’s not worried. He is happy. Jevon McFerrin has grown up listening to the upbeat lyrics of his father’s Grammy-winning song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but the irresistible earworm tune could be his theme song now.

McFerrin, 31 — son of jazz star Bobby McFerrin and grandson of the late opera baritone Robert McFerrin — has been a standby for several of the major roles in “Hamilton” since joining Broadway’s mega-phenomenon in September. But he really got his shot Jan. 7, when he was called upon to portray the hippest Founding Father himself, the role originated by the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and has subsequently played him five more times.

Jevon’s father has seen him in the show twice — once in the dual roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, once as Hamilton. He remembers their meeting after the curtain as “a real moment. I don’t know if it’s a moment I can describe, but to be able to make my dad that proud was the highlight of my career.”

In fact, Jevon didn’t even get into the company until his third try — first before the premiere at the Public Theater in February 2015, and again before the Broadway transfer that August. When he finally got in, he knew the soundtrack by heart. But he still hadn’t been able to get a ticket.

As a standby, he reports to the theater every day and isn’t allowed to leave the theater until 15 minutes before the end — “In case something happens,” he says, acknowledging the stress but emphasizing the rewards. He says that replacements have some interpretive freedom. “There are marks they need you to hit because the show is such a machine, but the important thing is to tell your story, Hamilton’s story, honestly.”

If there has been disappointment in the audience when people find out they aren’t going to see the current Hamilton, Javier Munoz, McFerrin hasn’t heard it. “There might be some sighs at first,” he says, “But it’s such a beautiful piece, with the choreography and the music and the lights. By the time people see the show, it doesn’t matter who was there to tell this amazing story. The show is the star.”

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