It’s happening, Washington. The heavenly event you’ve been praying for.
No — not the Rapture. Then again, for musical theater lovers and history buffs, that’s what this may represent.
The blessed occasion? “Hamilton” is coming to the Kennedy Center.
But wait — don’t reach for the credit card quite yet. The national touring version of the juggernaut Broadway production, which just vacuumed up a record 16 Tony Award nominations, will be a part of the institution’s 2017-2018 season, which begins a year from September, center officials said Tuesday.
And in an unusual strategy that could boost the Kennedy Center’s finances for a couple years to come, if you want a guaranteed shot at securing tickets for “Hamilton,” you’ll have to buy an expensive season subscription — for both the 2016-2017 and the 2017-2018 seasons at the sprawling performing arts complex on the Potomac, according to Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter.
It’s a tactic that could juice enthusiasm for center’s other theatrical offerings — but could also spark a backlash among younger fans who have gravitated to the hip-hop journey through the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton but may not have the deep pockets for a full subscription, which will likely begin above $500 the year the musical comes to town.
Single tickets are expected to be made available, but the inventory will depend on the length of the musical’s visit to the center’s 2,362-seat Opera House — and how many are left over after the hoped-for surge in full subscription purchases.
The specific dates for “Hamilton’s” Washington stay have yet to be nailed down. Subscriptions for the 2016-2017 season go on sale May 18 and include priority access for the following season.
It remains unclear whether Lin-Manuel Miranda — the multi-talented MacArthur “genius grant” recipient who wrote the book, music and lyrics and stars as the first Treasury secretary — will join the Washington production. The casting may not be known for some time, but people close to the Broadway production say several members of the original cast are expected to leave the musical sometime this year.
Of the unprecedented lead time in announcing a touring Broadway musical’s run at the Kennedy Center, Rutter said: “We needed to make sure people know this is coming because it’s the only thing people ask me about. ‘Hamilton’ makes history in every format, including when do you make an announcement” about its arrival.
Some grumbling was heard in theater circles after the producers of “Hamilton” did not include Washington among the first cities outside New York to receive the show. This fall, a production will “sit down” in Chicago for an open-ended run, and a separate national tour begins next March in San Francisco.
Rutter says Washington can count on “Hamilton” in its midst for a considerable length of time between September 2017 and summer 2018. (Although it appears most likely to occur toward the back end of that time frame.) She met last year with the show’s lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, and says that she told him, “Look, it’s got to come here.”
The magnitude of demand for “Hamilton” tickets has been unlike anything else in Broadway history. Advance sales are inching toward $100 million, and seats are being booked at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre into next year for prices that are, in some cases, patently unbelievable. On the “Hamilton” page of the show’s official seller, Ticketmaster.com, the top “resale” price this past weekend for tickets in the center of Row C for the Nov. 15 performance, a Tuesday evening, was $3,198 each.
You can expect the clamor for tickets to be no less intense at the Kennedy Center, which is why center officials are revealing details now.
The 2016-2017 season also includes a visit by a celebrated Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”; the regional premiere of the Tony-winning “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and an innovative revival of “Into the Woods” by New York-based Fiasco Theatre.
Fans can get in line for “Hamilton” by starting with a relatively bare-bones subscription for 2016-17 — the “Drama” package of five plays, starting at around $120 per person. However, by the 2017-18, they would have to upgrade to the “Broadway” package, starting at around $500, to get in on “Hamilton” and seven other productions.
Then again, it’s a musical that’s been showered with multiple awards, including the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, and that one notable fan, Michelle Obama, recently said was “the best piece of art in any form I have ever seen in my life.”
It was in Washington — in fact, at the White House in 2009 — that Miranda gave the first public exposure to a portion of the then-embryonic musical, which six years later would officially open off-Broadway at the Public Theater, and soon after move to Broadway. At that White House poetry slam, Miranda surprised the Obamas with a rap rendition of what would become the show’s popular opening number, “Alexander Hamilton.”
The Obamas have been Miranda boosters ever since: The president attended the musical during its preview period last summer on Broadway, and the first lady saw it both at the Public and at the Richard Rodgers. In March, she invited the entire cast to the White House for a day of performance and seminars with Washington-area high school students.
By the time “Hamilton” reaches Washington, the Obamas will be private citizens — and, according to their own announced plans, residents of the capital. Given the continuing frenzy over the show, they, too, might want to mull their options for booking ahead.
For more information, call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.