Sewickley native Peter Matthew Smith feels ‘Pittsburgh pride’ when performing in ‘Hamilton’
Peter Matthew Smith feels right at home as he takes the stage at the Benedum Center each night to perform as King George III in the electrifying hit show “Hamilton.”
Sure, audiences across the country applaud when George — who serves as somewhat of a comedic relief in the show — enters the scene. But in Pittsburgh, it’s different.
“Here, I can feel it’s a little extra,” Smith, 41, a Sewickley native, said Wednesday from the Benedum Center. “It’s more of, ‘We know who this guy is.’ Even if people don’t know me personally, they know I’m from Pittsburgh. It’s more of Pittsburgh pride being felt when I step out there.”
Smith, a longtime Broadway performer and 1985 Quaker Valley graduate now residing in Central Pennsylvania with his wife Amy Lutz and 4-year-old daughter, Addison, was cast as George one year ago. Since then, he’s toured the country performing in the hottest theatrical show in decades.
“Hamilton” is showing at the Benedum Center through Jan. 27.
Bringing the show to Pittsburgh has been an honor, Smith said.
“It’s truly coming home,” he said.
The first stop he made was at his parents’ house in Sewickley, where he’s staying for the four weeks the show is in town.
“I went home and got a homecooked meal from my mom — that’s always the best,” Smith said. “It’s nice to just be in a comfortable environment that you don’t get to be around when you’re living out of a suitcase.”
As the hometown guy in the show, Smith makes sure his fellow castmates know where to go if they want a good sandwich or waffle.
He also makes sure to tell them to take a picture on Mt. Washington as “it’s like the most gorgeous view of a city you’ll ever see.”
In addition to performing and running around making sure he sees everyone, Smith also is teaching masters classes at Point Park University and for Pittsburgh Musical Theater.
“I’m kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut off just to make sure that I do everything that I promised people that I would do,” he said. “But I’m also happy to do that, too. It’s great to come back and give back to your community — the community that helped get me my start.”
“Hamilton” is a high-energy show with a story told mostly through rap. However, Smith’s character does not rap — which he jokes is probably for the best.
The show is written so brilliantly, Smith said, it makes his job easy.
“When you get to say lyrics like, ‘I’ll send the fully armed battalion to remind you of my love,’ I mean, that’s brilliant. I can’t fail,” he said.
The energy of each audience helps fuel Smith during the show. Here in Pittsburgh, that motivation is particularly strong, because he almost always knows someone in the crowd.
While Smith still hasn’t had much spare time to stop and enjoy some of his favorite local fare — such as Pamela’s pancakes or a Primanti’s sandwich — he plans to before he leaves.
If there was one thing about Pittsburgh he could package up and take on the road with him, it would be the food.
“I love Eat’n Park, too. There’s something so simple about Eat’n Park. Just getting some grilled stickies a la mode. That’s some good stuff.”
Next up, the tour is hitting Columbus, Cincinnati and Detroit.
There’s no stop, however, in Pittsburgh’s rival town, Cleveland, for this touring group.
“We actually aren’t (heading there),” Smith said. “The other tour went there — they took care of that.”
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.