It’s been three years since the record-breaking musical “Hamilton” opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show continues to draw sold out audiences to performances across the nation with its revolutionary re-telling of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s life.
The smashing success of the show has created a reputation known to many.
But here are some facts that you might not know about the show and its continued following of devoted fans.
It almost never came to be. Miranda was getting ready to take off for vacation after writing and starring in his first Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “In the Heights,” which opened in 2008.
While browsing an airport bookstore, he came across Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton. He was immediately infatuated with Hamilton’s life story and set out to tell the story in his now iconic hip-hop style after realizing nobody else had done it yet.
Writing the musical took Miranda seven years, he told CNBC. One number, “My Shot,” took him a full year to write and perfect, he added. The visionary said in an interview with the Smithsonian that he’d write at the piano, make a loop of the recording, and proceed to walk around until he crafted the right lyrics to go with the track.
But as they say, anything good is worth waiting for. The show made its world premiere off Broadway at New York’s Public Theater in downtown Manhattan. The critical acclaim and buzz that followed led to a reported $32 million in advance ticket sales and months of sold-out performances.
“Hamilton” has shattered box office records. Last year it brought in nearly $3.8 million in a single week, making it the highest gross ever by a Broadway show for a one-week period, according to Broadway News. The staggering figure could in part be attributed to the increased price of a premium ticket, which Variety reported was $1,150 for the holiday week that set the record. But that top-level price tag pales in comparison to resale prices, which have hit has high as $10,000, according to the Seattle Times.
But don’t let those prices scare you off too quickly, because it is possible to score the best seats in the house for $10. All it requires is a whole lot of luck. 46 seats in the first and second rows of the Richard Rodgers Theater are made available for every show through a digital lottery. Just go to the Broadway lottery page or the Hamilton app, put in your information before the deadline, and patiently wait. This same opportunity is available with the Chicago production and the national touring performances as well.
Title-I eligible high schools across the nation are further exploring American history with the help of “Hamilton”. The Gilder Lehrman Institute partnered with the producers of the hit musical and the Miranda family to create the Hamilton Education Program. Through the educational initiative, students are invited to see a private matinee performance of the show during a school day for the low cost of $10. Leading up to this, teachers are provided documents and resources from the Institute in order to introduce students to people and events from the founding era. The students then learn how Miranda incorporated primary documents into his own music in the show.
Armed with this knowledge, they do as Miranda did and create performance pieces from what they learned about this historic period. The day of the show, students are treated to a Q&A with cast members and then select students are invited to showcase the performance pieces they created in a theater full of peers. According to its website, the educational initiative is set to run through 2020 and will eventually reach nearly 250,000 students.
Since opening on Broadway three years ago, “Hamilton” has launched several additional companies of the hip-hop showstopper both nationally and internationally. In addition to its home in New York City, “Hamilton” has two national touring companies and residencies in both Chicago and London’s West End.
Last year, Miranda announced “Hamilton” will play a limited three-week run in Puerto Rico beginning January 2019 at the University of Puerto Rico’s campus in San Juan. And to make things even more exciting, Miranda shared that he would be reviving his Tony-nominated performance in the title role for those few weeks. Miranda told “Good Morning America” that the idea of bringing the show to Puerto Rico, where both his parents are from, is to try and raise millions for the Flamboyan Arts Fund, which he helped create. According to its website, the fund, which will be the recipient of all proceeds from the three weeks of shows, “…is an initiative dedicated to preserving, amplifying, and sustaining the arts in Puerto Rico by supporting all facets of the arts community including music, theater, visual arts, dance, literature, and youth arts education.” Through the Hispanic Federation, Miranda has already helped raise more than $35 million for recovery efforts on the island following the destruction left behind by Hurricane Maria in 2017, he told “GMA.”
“Hamilton” is sung straight through from beginning to end, and the soundtrack — with more than two-hours of hits — continues to receive warm reception. Since its September 2015 release, it has sold well over one million copies, according to Billboard magazine. It also received a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
But music from the show didn’t stop there. In December 2016, the Hamilton Mixtape was released. The 23-track album was composed of select covers from the show’s hits sung by rappers and musicians including John Legend, Queen Latifah, John Legend, Wiz Khalifa, Sia, Alicia Keys, and Chance The Rapper.
One year after the Hamilton Mixtape was released, Miranda announced that the anticipated Hamilton Mixtape Vol. 2 was scrapped and would instead be replaced with Hamildrops – artistic collaborations dropped one at a time month-by-month over the course of a year. Of the tracks that have been released so far, some have been songs that were cut from the show, or the first drafts of tracks that ended up making the show but underwent significant changes. Artists that have taken part in these Hamildrops include The Decemberists, Aloe Blacc, Ben Platt, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
The posthumous celebrity of Alexander Hamilton will continue to grow beyond biographies and a musical. The show has brought so much attention to Hamilton that Miranda and his producer Jeffrey Seller are conceptualizing and putting together an interactive and immersive pop-up museum called Hamilton: The Exhibition.
The exhibit will be housed in a specially-constructed, all-weather structure approximately the size of a football field, according to a press release from the City of Chicago. David Korins, the set designer for the musical, is creatively directing this expansion of Hamilton Inc.
An audio tour narrated by Miranda will lead visitors through the experiential journey of the Secretary of Treasury’s life complete with an “…interactive mix of in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia and music.” The debut of the attraction is set for April 6 on Chicago’s Northerly Island.
Miranda might need some more shelf space
“Hamilton” is one of the most decorated shows currently playing on Broadway. The show, which brought to light a widely-unknown story in history, made some history of its own when it received a record breaking 16 Tony Award nominations in 2016. It took home 11 wins from those nominations, including the Tony Award for Best Musical.
In addition to this, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, seven Olivier Awards, a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album, and countless accolades from organizations and publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone. Just last month, the Kennedy Center Honors announced that “Hamilton” creators would receive a special award at the upcoming celebration. This will be the first time in the 41-year history of the honors that a work of art will be recognized rather than an individual. This will also make the four creators (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andy Blankenbuehler, Alex Lacamoire, Thomas Kail) the youngest to receive a Kennedy Center honor.
Yup, you read that right. Last month reports came out that “Hamilton” might be coming to your local movie theater or streaming site. Several movie studios are reportedly in bidding wars for the movie rights to the musical. Among the interested parties is Warner Bros., which recently acquired the film rights to “In the Heights” for $50 million.
But unlike “In the Heights,” which will be a screen adaptation of the production, “Hamilton” will be a live recording of the musical from 2016 when Miranda was still starring in the title role. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the sellers are asking that the recording not grace screens until 2020 or 2021, allowing the show to still only be seen onstage for at least two more years.