The air outside the Orpheum Theatre was suffused with giddiness Wednesday evening as “Hamilton,” Broadway’s hottest blockbuster, landed in Minneapolis.
The tour version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning juggernaut had its first sold-out performance of a six-week run. After pausing to take selfies with the “Hamilton” marquee, Minnesota theatergoers bounced into the Orpheum Theatre with broad smiles and a few American Revolution period costumes.
For many, the show folded into personal celebrations.
Dick and Shari Parsons of St. Louis Park were there to mark their 49th wedding anniversary. “Oh, we can’t wait to see it,” Shari Parsons said. “We’ve been listening to the lyrics everywhere we drive, and we’re eager to see if we can keep up.”
That was not a concern for Emily Harrison, 22, a die-hard fan of the musical and recent graduate of George Washington University. Her tickets were a graduation present, marking a success after failed attempts to score tickets in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
“What I love about ‘Hamilton’ is that it makes me feel so patriotic,” said Harrison, who attended the show with her mother. “When I listen to the song about the Battle of Yorktown, and all the sacrifices that these men made for my freedom, I cry.”
A breakthrough cultural phenomenon, “Hamilton” uses hip-hop and other musical forms to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton and America’s other Founding Fathers and Mothers. The show, which opened on Broadway three years ago, makes history hip and sexy even as it made its producers very rich. The show has grossed over $400 million on Broadway alone.
In addition to Broadway, there are longer-term productions in Chicago and London as well as two touring companies of “Hamilton.”
With similar ticket prices for all iterations, “Hamilton” is grossing more than $3 million a week in New York and Chicago, in venues with less capacity than the 2,600-seat Orpheum, no less.
For many, the high ticket prices were worth the chance to see “something that’s part of history,” said Ellen Newcomb, a teacher from Farmington, who bought tickets at the urging of her 17-year-old daughter. “I’m skipping back-to-school night, but how often can you get to see something like this?”
While many people spent big bucks for the tickets, 40 lucky souls saw the show in premium seats for just $10 apiece. That’s because they won the “Hamilton” lottery. For each performance, 40 tickets are distributed randomly via hamiltonmusical.com/lottery.
Bao Vang of St. Paul was the guest of a work colleague who won Wednesday’s “Hamilton” lottery. “My jaw dropped when she offered me this chance to go,” Vang said.
Another lottery winner, Lori Schuttenhofer, said that she was feeling extra special because she was able to take her wife. “We couldn’t shell out the money for regular tickets.”
The show also was an occasion for family reunions. Drew Rosas, of Los Angeles, flew to town to attend Wednesday’s performance with family members, including his brother, Benjamin Rosas, of Stillwater. Benjamin Rosas dressed up as George Washington, complete with a white wig. In top hat, no tails, Drew Rosas said that he was John Quincy Adams.
Natty but not in costume was the Schroeder family of Eden Prairie. Dad Mark secured tickets for wife Margie’s 50th birthday. They attended with their daughters, Abby, 17, and Ava, 15.
“What I love about this show is that it shows America’s diversity as its strength,” Abby said. “It’s about the past but it’s about America today.”
Her sister, Ava, nodded in agreement. “And by using rap, [composer Miranda] makes it all about us.”
About 120,000 people will see “Hamilton” over its six-week run, according to officials at the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which operates the Broadway playhouses in downtown Minneapolis. And those patrons hail from all over. Between 30 and 40 percent of the audience come from outside the Twin Cities, trust officials said, including fans from as far away as Canada, the Rockies and throughout the Midwest.
Not everyone outside the theater Wednesday was happy. Sarah Evangelista, from Detroit, tried her mightiest to get tickets. “I’ll pay anything,” she said. “Minneapolis is lucky to get this.”
As for busker Melvin Johnson, drumming rhythmically on a bucket outside the theater, he’s optimistic that “Hamilton” will be a boon for him, too.
“I’m hoping that people coming out will be generous,” he said.