From the Jan. 5 closing of Hamilton in Chicago, where Tamar Greene ’09 played George Washington for the previous 17 months, the tenor had less than two weeks to take the role to Broadway, where Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize winner has played for five years.
Tamar said he felt emotional leaving the cast at CIBC Theatre, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared the last day of the run Hamilton Day in Chicago. She said the show had been a “remarkable gift” and praised the cast for performing for 31,000 public school students and generating $400 million in box office sales.
“We came together,” Tamar said, “to …make a difference. [The cast] led with passion for furthering arts education, getting people to rock the vote and raising funds for serious health issues. What Hamilton has done in Chicago is extremely special, and I am honored to have been part of its legacy.”
While Hamilton marks his Broadway debut, Tamar said his breakthrough show was Porgy and Bess. That role grew out of a 2013 New York City audition with Telsey & Company Casting. He didn’t get a role in Motown, the show he tried out for, but he did get a callback for Porgy and Bess and was cast as a fisherman in the first national tour.
“I learned so much about the audition process and the musical theater industry from that experience,” Tamar said. “That’s when I earned my Equity card before I even knew what an Equity card was.”
When Tamar saw the hip-hop-infused Hamilton in previews in July 2015, he decided he had to be part of it.
“As a kid from the Caribbean, I grew up knowing the struggle of an immigrant family and what it means to be part of America,” Tamar said. “All the while I was watching Hamilton, I was thinking: This musical would show my family why I must do what I do.”
A series of auditions and callbacks with Telsey for various Hamilton roles stretched over two years without results. Perseverance triumphed in 2018, however, when Tamar was cast as America’s Revolutionary War hero and first president.
“It all clicked,” he said. “I feel patriarchal toward my many younger siblings, and because of that, I found I relate to Washington. That strong association came through in the audition.”
As a freshman at SUNY Oswego, Tamar studied classical and jazz piano in the studio of Robert Auler. Friends who heard him sing stepped in and changed his future, introducing him to voice professor Todd Graber.
“One day some students told me that I should hear Tamar sing,” Todd recalled. “I invited him to my studio, where we explored his lower range since he was singing bass in choir. I then had him vocalize higher—and then higher. He went up to a high B-flat without much effort, surprising us both. I looked at him and said, ‘you are no bass!’”
Taking lessons with Todd, Tamar landed the role of Dancairo in Oswego Opera Company’s Carmen, while his professor played his cohort, Remendado.
“Tamar’s voice is amazing—large, clear, expressive, musical and beautiful,” Todd said. “Broadway will always have a place for ‘legit’ voices, and his is that! Honestly, I thought he’d have a good chance in opera, but it didn’t surprise me when he began getting cast in non-operatic shows.”
From Oswego, Tamar returned to his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., where his first job, with Blackboard Online Learning, reflected his computer information systems major, and his hobby—appearing in local theater—connected him to his major in music. He soon followed his talent to Eastman School of Music at University of Rochester, where he honed his stage versatility performing opera, musical theater, Motown and solo work while he earned a master’s degree in vocal performance.
Among his long list of credits, Tamar counts the North American premiere of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera; Charlie in New York Philharmonic’s Showboat at Lincoln Center, and Crab Man in the Spoleto Festival’s Porgy and Bess.
Tamar said he’s proud to be a member of the big Oswego family and treasures his campus experiences. He sang in several ensembles, played piano and sang solos in Oswego Jazz Ensemble, and was a member of the music honorary fraternity, Mu Beta Psi. He’s been featured in a Kenekt concert and recently connected with and performed for Oswego students via a Zoom call, while Broadway remains shut down, due to COVID-19.
When Brodway re-opens, fans will find him on stage convincing Alexander Hamilton to be his “right-hand man,” warning him “history has its eyes on you,” and explaining why he won’t run for president again, instead seeking “a moment in the shade, at home in this nation we’ve made, one last time.”
When Tamar received the call telling him he was cast in what he sees as his dream role, he was vacationing in Australia.
“After hearing so many times that they wanted me, but I wasn’t quite right for any open roles, I finally felt my moment had arrived.”
FUN FACTS ABOUT TAMAR GREENE
- Offered a chance to see Hamilton during the early off-Broadway run, he turned down a free ticket because he was busy.
- A few months later, when the buzz about this new sensation grew, he contacted the friend who was working on the show to ask if the offer was still viable. It wasn’t!
- In July 2015, Tamar won a lottery to purchase a ticket and saw Hamilton for the first time. His seat was in front of that held by Vice President Joe Biden.
- Following graduation from Oswego, Tamar ran the gamut of musical gigs. He taught piano lessons, performed at weddings and parties, sang in a group that did a lot of Motown music, and starred in The Wiz, Little Shop of Horrors and other regional theater productions.
- He was also the lead singer in Bitchin’ Kitchen, a Funk band that has opened for John Legend.
2020 Alumni Award Winner
Tamar Greene ’09 was selected to receive the 2020 Oswego Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest recognition awarded by the association.