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The founding fathers will be rapping on Broadway this summer.
After opening on Feb. 17 to some of the strongest New York reviews in years for a new musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Hamilton will move directly from its off-Broadway world premiere at the Public Theater to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre, becoming an early frontrunner in the 2016 Tony Awards race.
Based on advance buzz, the show’s limited-engagement run was extended three times at the Public even before opening and is largely sold out; it is scheduled to play there through May 3.
There had been speculation that lead commercial producer Jeffrey Seller, whose association with Miranda began on the composer-performer’s 2008 Tony-winning musical In the Heights, would exercise his right to cancel part of the extended premiere run and move the new bio-musical uptown before the April 23 cutoff date for 2015 Tony eligibility. However, the team has opted to wait for the start of the 2015-16 theater season rather than rush the move.
“We wanted to do it as soon as possible, and we wanted to have enough time to finish our work with thought and passion,” said Seller of the transfer timing.
The show will begin Broadway previews on July 13, with opening night set for Aug. 6. It fills a vacancy created at the Rodgers by the March 22 closing of Idina Menzel musical If/Then, returning Miranda to the same Broadway house where In the Heights had a three-year run.
“It was my Broadway debut!” Miranda told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s really where I learned to do eight shows a week. I’m thrilled to go back there.”
Read more ‘Hamilton’: Theater Review
Theater producers tend to steer away from summer Broadway openings, generally preferring to wait until later in the fall or the spring, which keeps shows fresher in Tony voters’ minds. But the summer dates for Hamilton provide an indication of confidence in the lauded show’s potential to dominate the awards-season conversation. Theater insiders have already begun speculating that the formally inventive bio-musical is among likely contenders for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A notable precedent for a show that bowed to huge business during the Broadway summer doldrums is Hairspray, which opened in Aug. 2002 and ran for 6½ years.
Miranda wrote the book, music and lyrics for Hamilton, which was inspired by Ron Chernow‘s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. Incorporating musical styles including rap, hip-hop, R&B and pop balladry to translate late-18th-century American history into a vigorously contemporary, multi-cultural urban vernacular, the show follows the political and personal fortunes of the title character, and his dealings with such figures as George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as they break from England and forge an independent nation.
Reviewing the production for The Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck called it “a wildly entertaining musical that fulfills its considerable ambitions.” Ben Brantley in The New York Times wrote: “It exudes the dizzying urgency of being caught up in momentous events as they occur.”
Miranda stars in the title role in a 19-member ensemble of predominantly black and Hispanic actors that also features Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Philipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones.
Brian D’Arcy James, who plays the plum supporting role of King George, petulantly eyeing the revolutionary ferment from across the Atlantic, is committed to a leading role in Something Rotten!, a new musical opening on Broadway this spring. However, a press spokesman for Hamilton said no casting changes have been announced for the move.
Reuniting Miranda’s In the Heights team, the production is directed by Thomas Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, with music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Also regrouping from that earlier show are Seller’s fellow commercial producers Sander Jacobs and Jill Furman, who will present the Broadway run in association with the Public Theater.
“Hamilton has burst on the world in a blaze that has amazed and delighted all of us at the Public,” said Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis. “We have never experienced such ticket demand, or such wild enthusiasm from our audiences. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s retelling of our nation’s founding tells the story of a country that truly belongs to all of us.”
The decision to wait until the 2016 Tony Awards race avoids putting Hamilton into direct competition with Fun Home, another acclaimed new American musical transferring from a successful Public run.
Composed by Jeanine Tesori, with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, the show is based on Alison Bechdel‘s graphic memoir about a budding lesbian comic-strip artist growing up in a rural Pennsylvania funeral home with a closeted gay father. It begins previews on March 27 at the Circle in the Square Theatre, officially opening on April 19.
“We were certainly aware of it,” said Eustis of the potential clash between the two shows for awards attention. “There’s interests that we all have in other shows and what we had to say is at this table, we are going to do what’s best for Hamilton. I’m delighted that we’re not competing with Fun Home for the Tony, but that was not why we made the decision.”
— Suzy Evans contributed to this report
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