Sasha Hollinger‘s friends and family haven’t started besieging her with requests for tickets to see her Broadway debut, but she knows that’s inevitable. Hollinger, a dancer and actress who grew up in Woodbridge and graduated from George Mason University in 2009, is joining the cast of Hamilton next Monday as a member of the fantastically popular musical’s ensemble.
“So far, people around me have been pretty considerate,” Hollinger says. “Mostly family. They’ve been going through my mom.”
Hollinger will be joining Hamilton as several of its original cast members, including creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, cycle out of the production. She landed the role after going through a nine-day, “boot camp”-style audition in March. The audition started shortly after Hamilton’s producers announced a national touring version of the show, but it was also held with the anticipation that Miranda and other actors would be leaving the Broadway production.
While she’ll spend most of her time as a member of the ensemble in the background, Hollinger has a crucial duty: She’ll “play” the bullet that Aaron Burr fires to kill Alexander Hamilton in their duel that serves as the show’s climax. Hollinger will be taking over that bit part from Ariana DeBose, who played it with such specificity that she became known to Hamilton’s social-media-savvy fans as “#thebullet.”
Just how does a human actor play a round of ammunition? Hollinger says DeBose developed the performance with very particular movements, including forming one of her hands to appear to be holding the bullet. “Your pointer finger and thumb cannot touch, your other three fingers can’t move at all,” Hollinger says.
Equally important to that moment in the show is the portrayal of the bullet’s perspective. “It’s the moment in the duel where time kind of freezes,” Hollinger says. “Nothing around Hamilton or Burr is moving. It takes into account his final thoughts. She doesn’t know who it’s for or who shot her. She only knows she’s the bullet.”
Hollinger says she first heard of Hamilton several years ago when it was a half-finished book Miranda was testing out in public readings, though she didn’t get a chance to see it until after it moved to Broadway. Now that it’s won 11 Tonys, including for Best Choreography, she’s got “big shoes to fill.”
Hollinger started dancing when she was three years old, and started singing while attending Woodbridge High School and its performing-arts program. She also danced with a professional hip-hop troupe while at GMU. And though she says she always had thoughts of performing on Broadway, she was surprised by the demands of musical theater.
“As much as I was a dancer I had a thought of Broadway one day,” she says. “But the dancing you do on Broadway is much more strenuous than what you do in show choir. Once I got up here and started going to musical theater auditions I realized it was the thing for me.”
Hollinger’s first job out of college was as a backup dancer with a Michael Jackson tribute tour shortly after the singer’s death. That was followed by a gig in the ensemble of a national touring production of In the Heights, Miranda’s first musical.
Although Miranda and other founding cast members are departing, Hamilton remains the hardest Broadway ticket to obtain, with performances sold out deep into 2017; even the touring version’s Kennedy Center stop—scheduled for June 2018—will be a tough get.
For Hollinger though, the excitement about the role she takes on next week matches the hype around Hamilton. It marks her comeback after shoulder surgery in April 2015 following a tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on which she performed through an injury.
“I was on disability for a year but what better show to come back to?” she says.