Hamilton fans at Urban
February 8, 2017 • 176 views
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It’s 2:45 p.m. after the first day of classes. Singing can be heard coming from the Gumption. Students make references to a play, one that consists of one hundred and forty two minutes of of pop, rap, and musical numbers. They treasure playbills in backpacks, they sport autographs on iPhone cases and stickers on laptops, and no longer having to hide, they finally burst out into song. The Hamilton Renaissance has begun.
Hamilton has become, in the words of Scott Kane, Chief Marketing Officer of Shorenstein Hays Nederlander Theatres (SHNSF), a “cultural phenomenon.” Its arrival at the SHN stage in March created even more buzz around the hip-hop musical. On Monday, December 12, the sun rose to find hundreds of fans in line for tickets outside the SHN Orpheum Theatre. CBS spoke with two fans in line since 4 a.m.
“From a marketing perspective,” Kane said, “including Hamilton as part of our 16/17 season has significantly elevated our membership base. We sold more than 43,000 memberships for our current season. And there’s no question that Hamilton was the driving force behind our record-breaking memberships sales. We average 20,000 memberships in a typical year.” SHNSF has reignited San Francisco’s Hamilton hype with their upcoming performance in March, but seats have been sold out since December.
“To get tickets for the show… that became an obsession,” said Alexis Wright, Urban English teacher and instigator of the Hamilton sing-along on the first day of school. The tickets have been going for $1,000 to $3,000 each from third party retailers like StubHub, and the annual Urban Auction has been rumored to boast a pair of Hamilton tickets. Selling tickets for more than face value violates the theatre company’s rules, but Hamilton tickets are at such a high demand that fans are willing to pay.
When questioned about the nature of Hamilton’s fan base, Sam Masto (‘17), co-creator of Urban’s Hamilton Club, said, “cult is probably the best word to use.” The hype surrounding the musical and its cast members, especially at Urban, does resemble a cult. While Hamilton Club has just recently created a space for casual listeners, the musical has been circulating the school since Hamilton opened at the Public Theatre in New York City last year.
“The first time I heard about it was here, last year,” Wright said. “Oddly enough, from, wait for it, Sam.” When I interviewed Sam, he in turn mentioned that he had heard it from other Urban students.
The fanbase the musical has created by proximity is undeniable. The availability of the soundtrack on popular sites and the media surrounding both the music and the cast on a national level have attributed to Hamilton’s popularity.
Wright described her process of becoming acquainted with the musical, from dismissing the musical as a passing trend, to watching a performance on the Tony’s, and finally to listening to the soundtrack.
“I looked at a performance in the White House and it really moved me to see all these people of color in the White House, singing songs about Alexander Hamilton,” Wright said.
According to the National Theatre Institute, between 2006 and 2013 in New York City, the racial breakdown for actors was as follows: 14 percent of all available roles went to black actors, 3 percent to Latino actors, 3 percent to Asian actors, 1 percent to other minorities, and 79 percent to Caucasian actors. In contrast, the Hamilton casting call was specifically described as “non-white.”
“Tackling an important historical moment that is seen as a predominantly white moment, and… saying, ‘how can this be a conversation that everyone is allowed to have?’ is one the most compelling aspects of Hamilton”, said Wright. “That’s the revolutionary part to me.”
While commitment to the show may vary, one of the most interesting aspects of Hamilton’s popularity is its wide audience. Wright, discussing Hamilton’s fanbase, said, “I appreciate the mix of children, adults, and teens… the age demographic is probably one of the most diverse demographics I’ve seen.”
Hamilton’s incredible popularity and the scope of it’s fanbase has involved a wider age demographic in the musical theatre community. While Hamilton is a Broadway musical, and therefore viewer-exclusive, the soundtrack alone has produced an incredible following.
“What’s unique about our membership makeup this season is that almost 25% of our new members are under 35 years old,” said Kane, regarding new members of SHNSF and Hamilton’s debut in the spring. Urban itself has proved a fascinating example of the age demographic Hamilton has reached: teachers and students alike have fallen victim to the popularity of the musical. And the Renaissance has only begun.