Just how big a hit is Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Broadway musical “Hamilton”?
The hip-hop retelling of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton is raking in $500,000 in profit each week, according to a New York Times Magazine story published on Tuesday profiling the show’s lead producer, Jeffrey Seller.
And advance ticket sales for “Hamilton” totaled $82 million in early February, which translated to about 400 sold-out shows.
Here are some other jaw-dropping details about Broadway’s latest phenomenon.
1. The show was almost called “The Hamilton Mixtape”
Seller said that he worked with composer-writer-star Miranda on many aspects of the show over the five years of its gestation, from structure to casting to the title. It was Seller who prodded Miranda to streamline the title.
2. “Hamilton” aims for global domination
The first non-New York production of “Hamilton” will open in September in Chicago, and will stay there for at least a year as opposed to the usual practice of traveling to other cities. Producers foresee as many as eight different productions, including the one on Broadway, that would play in cities throughout North America and internationally.
3. “Hamilton” is raking in the Hamiltons — and the Benjamins
Not only is the show averaging more than half a million dollars in weekly profits, but it’s poised to earn $300 million in profit should it hit $1 billion, which is conceivable for the New York production alone. All of that on an initial investment of just $12.5 million.
4. Seller got his start on another Broadway phenomenon, “Rent”
When he was still in his 20s and getting his start as a theater booker, Seller met Jonathan Larson at an early workshop of his breakthrough rock musical “Rent” — when it was then titled “Boho Days.” He worked with the young composer for six years before the show opened on Broadway, where it played for more than a decade and became a cultural touchstone.
5. Why you won’t see “Hamilton” ads calling it a hip-hop or rap musical
Seller also produced Miranda’s 2008 Tony winner “In the Heights,” and one of the takeaways from that experience was that some theatergoers are resistant to anything that hinted of rap or hip-hop. “We were saddled in some ways with perceptual difficulties with rap music and racism,” he told the Times. “It became known as ‘the hip-hop musical,’ and that unfortunately limited the audience. It deserved to run longer, and I believe it would have if not for that issue.”
6. Producers are just as mad about those StubHub prices
Seller voiced frustrated at the scalping of “Hamilton” tickets, noting that one “bot” computer program scooped up 20,000 tickets to the show for marked-up resale on the secondary market. But producers have resisted the temptation to significantly raise ticket prices above the current range of $67 to $477. “But what would that do to the show?” he said. “What would it do to Broadway?”
7. Expect the ticket price to go up anyway
The cost of a ticket is expected to climb, though probably not as high as what resale brokers have been charging. And Seller said he would invest some of that increased revenue for educational outreach programs. In the next year, 20,000 11th graders in New York City public schools will attend Wednesday matinees of the production.
8. Since tickets are hard to get, producers market the “aspirational”
Producers skipped performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last fall, but did do a specially arranged live performance from the Richard Rodgers Theatre during the Grammy Awards in February. An advertising campaign in Manhattan’s Penn Station featured the show’s logo but no mention of dates or how to buy tickets. The idea is to raise awareness without setting unreasonable expectations or frustrating those who can’t get a ticket.
9. If you don’t have a ticket to see the original cast, it may be too late
Jonathan Groff, who plays King George, is already planning to leave the show this month to work on David Fincher‘s new Netflix series. But most cast members are working on 52-week contracts that run through mid-July and would need to be renegotiated if they choose to stay with the show beyond that point. That likely means a changeover this summer. Tickets are currently available through January 2017, though most are sold out.
10. Cast members may be getting a cut of the show
Seller said that he had settled a dispute with some longtime cast members who had helped to develop the show and requested a share of the gross even though that was not in their contracts. “It was a powerful argument they made; it was gut-wrenching for me, and I took it seriously,” he told The Times, though he declined to offer specifics of any agreement.