It’s a brisk day in New York City, but the barricades alongside the Richard Rodgers Theatre stage entrance on West 46th is already gridlocked with fans of “Hamilton: An American Musical,” the critically acclaimed breakout Broadway hit by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
With playbills and Sharpies in hand, they eagerly await their chance to meet a star from the sold-out musical about Alexander Hamilton, one of the brazen Founding Fathers of America.
Unfazed by the crowd, a young man with an easy smile and exuberant laugh emerges from the quagmire.
Bakersfield’s own Voltaire Wade-Greene, Hamilton’s co-dance captain and swing, has enjoyed tremendous success. He’s performed at the Tony Awards, hung out with A-list celebrities and even performed at the White House for the Obama family.
“Hamilton” is a leviathan, and Voltaire, named after the French Enlightenment author, is one of the few original cast members still performing today.
“It’s rare that you get to be a part of a cultural phenomenon and see the inner workings of it,” Voltaire said.
Being a part of the groundbreaking multicultural “Hamilton” cast is a dream come true.
But, for Voltaire, fame didn’t happen overnight. He had to work for it and wait for it.
Just as “Hamilton” recounts the life of an immigrant orphan’s rise to historical notoriety through his prolific writing, Voltaire’s own life has also been a narrative of struggle, hard work and cultivating a legacy.
But, instead of writing his way out, Voltaire danced his way out.
Growing up in Bakersfield, Voltaire was the oldest of three children raised by their single mother. His mom, Sharon, would take him to ballet, tap and jazz classes at Civic Dance Center when she wasn’t working.
By 15, Voltaire earned a full scholarship to The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. He left high school behind, where he was bullied for his skills and joined an environment where being a guy who danced was normal.
After moving to New York and landing his first big musical, Voltaire flew his mother out for opening night. But the show was canceled before Voltaire ever took the stage. He nearly quit his dream, but something in him knew he wasn’t done yet.
Then, he met choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, which led to a project called, “The Hamilton Mixtape,” now ubiquitously known as “Hamilton.”
Voltaire lives in Manhattan with his wife, Demetia, who is also an accomplished dancer. He credits his family, friends and teachers for his success.
“I do it for all the people who consistently sacrificed and supported me,” he said. “Their efforts were not in vain.”
And he has this message for anyone with a dream: Even when it seems like doors are closing, stay persistent because the times when you quit is right before things happen. The payoff at the end is worth it.
And, like a seasoned New York performer, Voltaire was off to his next appointment. There’s always another opportunity on the horizon, and this dance virtuoso is not throwing away his shot.