“A show that celebrates our democracy must participate in an election to defend our democracy,” the show’s lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, said in a telephone interview. “Our goal is to help generate the highest voter turnout in history.”
Entertainers often throw their weight behind political candidates, but Broadway and other mass-market productions — costly enterprises that count on the goodwill of the broadest possible customer base — do not, as a rule, risk alienating ticket buyers by taking sides. “Hamilton,” though, by virtue of its subject matter, extraordinary appeal and the inclinations of its creator and cast, has repeatedly ignored those norms and sought to have a public voice beyond the stage.
Four years ago, the company made headlines when cast member Brandon Victor Dixon stepped up at the end of a performance to address an audience member — Vice President-elect Mike Pence. “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us,” he said, prompting then President-elect Trump to tweet his disdain (becoming one of the few Americans to offer a dissenting view on the show, which he’s never seen). And last year, “Hamilton” took on a rescue mission: Miranda and Seller brought the musical to Hurricane Maria-battered Puerto Rico, with more than $15 million in proceeds from the three-week run going to the island’s arts organizations.
Like the rest of Broadway and most theater in America, “Hamilton” has been shuttered since March, when the coronavirus pandemic compelled officials to limit public gatherings. The musical lives for the moment online, as a movie on Disney Plus. It remains to be seen if this political endorsement has any impact on the show’s popularity. As Seller noted, it has been a magnet for theatergoers across the political spectrum.
“We were always happy to see people like Dick and Lynne Cheney see the show,” Seller said, referring to the former vice president and his wife. “I believe we hosted Chris Christie, too, and many other Republicans have come.” And though campaigns have bought out the theater for fundraisers, as the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign did, the Biden-Harris event is the first time “Hamilton” is putting together its own political benefit.
“We made the decision,” the producer said, “that it’s time to be overt.”
The online gathering at 9 p.m. Eastern time will include a town hall with the actors, moderated by “Hamilton” director Thomas Kail and featuring original cast members, including Miranda, Daveed Diggs (another Tony winner), Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson and Okieriete Onaodowan. Other key creative team members, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director Alex Lacamoire, are scheduled to be on hand as well. Noting that the event takes place on his birthday, Seller said a musical performance — which he did not describe — will cap off the evening.
Miranda has, in recent months, been spearheading a letter-writing drive, exhorting fans to help with get-out-the-vote messages to the electorate in battleground states. To date, Seller said, “We’ve probably generated over 2 million letters.”
It does not escape notice that a critical sequence in “Hamilton” has Alexander Hamilton casting the deciding — and personally fateful — ballot in the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. So the notion that every vote counts is part of the musical’s pedigree.
“This is a unique show because it is about voting and elections,” Seller said. “It is about fighting for democracy.”