Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Colonial Williamsburg piggybacks off success of ‘Hamilton’

The Broadway show "Hamilton" has spurred a new interest in Alexander Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus/Atlantic Records)
The Broadway show “Hamilton” has spurred a new interest in Alexander Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus/Atlantic Records)

In the hit hip-hop Broadway show “Hamilton,” which recently won 11 Tonys, America’s first president George Washington tells America’s first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, “You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”

Colonial Williamsburg, which is famous for telling the stories of America’s founding fathers, could soon be telling stories about Hamilton if a reenactor is cast for the first time to play the role for October 8th’s annual Washington’s Army Descends on Williamsburg event, which could potentially happen as early as this year.

Washington’s Army Descends on Williamsburg, formally known as Prelude to Victory, displays what Williamsburg would have been like in 1781 when Washington collected his troops before marching south to the decisive Battle of Yorktown.

The move to add a Hamilton reenactor to the event has been years in the making, according to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Interpretive Program Development Manager Stephen Seals. However, the surge in popularity of “Hamilton” nationwide made the decision to add a Hamilton reenactor a no-brainer.

For Seals, seeing a pair of teenage girls walking through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg wearing matching shirts that read “A. Ham,” short for Alexander Hamilton, and “A. Burr,” short for his prominent political rival Aaron Burr, was an eye-opening experience.

“That was what really told me people had really connected to this musical, and those people were coming here,” he said. “It might be a good idea to share those parts of the story and how they relate to Williamsburg.”

In “Hamilton,” major political figures of the Revolutionary War, including Washington, Thomas Jefferson and French commander Marquis de Lafayette, are portrayed alongside Hamilton. With full-time actors playing Washington, Jefferson and Lafayette at Colonial Williamsburg, Seals said more patrons are flocking to those interpreters as a result of the musical.

Seals, who has seen “Hamilton” on Broadway, said most of the interpreters playing those key roles are very familiar with the musical. As a result, Seals said, some fans of the show may pick up on some very familiar themes or quotes used in “Hamilton” while listening to the interpreters.

“Even now, if you listen really closely, sometimes you will hear something that you’ll recognize,” he said.

With the natural connection between Colonial Williamsburg and “Hamilton,” Seals said Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO Mitchell Reiss has reached out to members of the show in an attempt to bring the cast to the Revolutionary City.

Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen, but it’s clear Colonial Williamsburg is not throwing away its shot at capitalizing on the “Hamilton” phenomenon.

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