Just two months after graduating with a music theatre degree from the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, Juwan Crawley ‘16 landed a starring role in Spamilton, a musical parody of the Tony Award-winning hit musical Hamilton. The off-Broadway show also pokes fun of at least a dozen other big Broadway hits. Crawley’s performance, a mashup of Ben Franklin and composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, earned high praise from New York theater critics who nominated him for a Clive Barnes Award, which recognizes outstanding young performers.
“It really didn’t dawn on me how successful my first few months out had been, until that very moment I was looking at the people I was nominated with,” says Crawley about the January 9 award ceremony at Lincoln Center. Although he didn’t win, Crawley says, “The mutual respect from the other nominees—all people I consider accomplished—was really cool.“
Another major highlight of his young career was performing in front of Sondheim, as well as Hamilton creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who Crawley says loved the show so much he hung out with the actors afterward. “I was very overwhelmed when I met him,” says Crawley. “I was crying and I kept trying to compliment him, but he was gracious and said ‘no, no, you guys are great.’ There’s a particular part I have in the show that he told me he thought was just hilarious.”
Crawley, of Bridgeport, Conn., says he’s always believed in himself, but never imagined success would come so quickly. The hit show Spamilton was originally scheduled for only 18 performances when it debuted in September at The Triad theatre and is now scheduled through April 30.
He briefly left Spamilton in mid-October to star in the new musical comedy Found, at the Philadelphia Theater Company. Now that show has closed and Crawley has returned to his Spamilton role while auditioning for other shows, including the upcoming Broadway musical Frozen, based on the hit Disney movie.
“I can say that none of this would have happened for me if it weren’t for my experience at Hartt,” says Crawley. “It‘s not as if I wasn’t a hard worker in high school, but when I got to Hartt, I learned it wasn’t just my natural ability that would bring me to the top. My instructors guided me and said if you want to do this you need to do the work. I made up my mind my first year and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”