Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why "Hamilton's" Producers Made the Right Decision

Lin-Manuel Miranda's sung through Hamilton is moving uptown this summer, ending weeks of speculations about when and how it would make its Broadway bow.

After a couple of brief but intense weeks of speculation, we now know the timeline for the Broadway transfer of Lin-Manuel Miranda's critically acclaimed Hamilton. The producers of the hip-hop musical just announced a July 13th start date for the production's Main Stem bow, which means everyone can stop speculating and start lining up for tickets. The question was never if Hamilton would transfer, which was a given based on the thrice-extended tuner's ticket sales and over the moon reviews, but rather when, with the most popular rumor stating that producers were desperately trying to get the show to Broadway in time for this year's Tony eligibility cutoff.

The truth is preferable to the rumors for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is timing. I always found the rumblings of a spring transfer dubious because of the extremely accelerated timeline it called for, which among other things would have involved cancelling the musical's lucrative extension at the Public Theatre. While technically possible (the show's contract with the Public allowed for the extension to be cancelled in favor of a Broadway run), such a move would have been horrible customer service to the show's ticketholders and created a rescheduling nightmare for the Public and the show.

Furthermore, the only Broadway theatre up for grabs is the Richard Rodgers, which will continue to house If/Then until that show's March 22nd closing date. By the time stagehands managed to load out If/Then's complex set and load in Hamilton's, not to mention the week of technical rehearsals the cast would need to get accommodated to their new playing space, the show would have an extremely limited preview period if it wanted to open before the April 23rd eligibility cutoff. Press performances would have started almost immediately, which would preclude any kind of rewrites, trimming, or tightening up of the show before it was thrust onto the most high profile stage in the country.

I also never understood how a spring transfer would benefit the Public Theatre, which helped develop Hamilton and will surely have a stake in the Broadway production. In addition to having to refund/reschedule thousands of tickets for the cancelled performances, premiering Hamilton on Broadway during the same season as Fun Home (another critically acclaimed musical which originally debuted at the Public) would pit two of the non-profit's highest profile titles against one another. Fun Home's intriguing but decidedly non-commercial premise means its only real hope at a healthy Broadway run is critical acclaim, and if Hamilton were added to this spring's slate the reportedly game-changing historical show would surely dominate most of the spring press and awards talk. By delaying Hamilton's Broadway bow, the Public could potentially have two Tony winning musicals to add to its resume instead of one, with all the added prestige and additional income that implies.

The show's current timeline makes much more sense, both commercially and artistically. By taking a 3 month break between the end of the Off-Broadway run and the beginning of Broadway previews, Miranda and his artistic team have time to rethink elements of the show they might not be entirely satisfied with. It also gives everyone, cast and crew, a chance to catch their breath before diving into a rigorous and open-ended Broadway production schedule. The hip-hop musical is also one of the few shows that might actually sustain a summer opening, a time when a majority of the focus is on the past season's Tony winners and the long-running tourist friendly shows. Given the massive level of buzz surrounding Hamilton, I imagine the initial months will sell well and possibly even sell out primarily on the strength of its Off-Broadway reviews and already high demand (The Public run is entirely sold out despite the three aforementioned extensions). By the time fall rolls around good reviews and word of mouth should have spread far enough to get the tourists interested, and it will get a virtually guaranteed boost in ticket sales once the 2016 awards season starts in earnest.

It looks like Hamilton is going to be the kind of blockbusting hit Broadway hasn't seen for several seasons, so I would recommend any interested parties book tickets as soon as they go onsale March 8th. It really is looking like we're going to have a Book of Mormon level critical and commercial hit on our hands, and I suspect anyone who waits until performances begin to look for tickets is going to have a hard time tracking one down. And when they do, they could well have to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege of seeing the show, which is something Hamilton is already slightly infamous for.

I know I'll be buying my tickets when they go onsale! And as soon as I get in to see it, you can certainly expect a full review!

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