In “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda has long noted that the acclaimed Broadway show was “a story about America then, told by America now,” represented in the diversity and talent of a cast from all walks of life that helped the show win 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.
The version of “Hamilton” produced by the Door McAllen and RGV Productions that was performed and live-streamed Friday and Saturday included scenes in which the characters Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler Hamilton talked about how Jesus “saved” them, according to videos of the show from author and podcast host Hemant Mehta. After one of the performances, Pastor Victor Lopez gave a sermon with language that compared being gay to alcohol and drug addiction, according to the OnStage Blog, the first to report about the show.
“He knows exactly what you’ve gone through,” Lopez said, referring to God, according to the video. “You’ve gone through maybe broken marriages. Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs — with homosexuality — maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever, God can help you tonight. He wants to forgive you for your sins.”
Shane Marshall Brown, a spokesman for “Hamilton” in New York, told The Washington Post in a statement that it was “unaware of this unauthorized staging of ‘Hamilton.’ ”
“Hamilton does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and did not grant one to The Door Church,” Brown said. “We issued a cease-and-desist letter for the unauthorized use of Hamilton’s intellectual property, demanding the immediate removal of all videos and images from previous productions from the internet, including YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, their own website, and elsewhere.”
Representatives for the Door McAllen and Miranda did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Monday. Senior Pastor Roman Gutierrez told the Dallas Morning News in a statement that the church had acquired legal permission from the “Hamilton” team to produce the church’s version of the show. Yet Gutierrez noted in a Sunday sermon that the church had received the legal request to remove clips of the performance that were published online to promote the show.
The pastor also insisted to the Morning News that the church was not anti-LGBTQ, saying, “Everyone is always welcome.”
The musical, which is based on the 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, draws heavily from hip-hop music and features people of color as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. In addition to the 11 Tony Awards and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the musical won a Grammy Award for best musical theater album. A filmed version of the Broadway production was released on Disney Plus in 2020 after the streaming service paid $75 million to obtain the rights in one of the largest film acquisitions ever, according to Deadline.
The Broadway production of the show has repeatedly noted that it represents a “diverse America.” The show made headlines in 2016 when the cast addressed Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who had attended a performance, about their concerns over the incoming Trump administration and how they were “alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”
The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries of McAllen, about 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, is a nondenominational entity founded with the intention of “reaching lost souls with their compassion and desire to serve,” according to its website.
Although large parts of the church’s take on “Hamilton” remain the same, the inclusion of biblical references presents some significant differences. In one scene, the character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton notes that “Jesus gives me the strength to pull through,” even though it is not in the original production. At one point, the character of Alexander Hamilton is asked to pray and “receive Jesus Christ in your heart right now,” according to video posted to social media by Mehta.
“Do you not only confess but repent of all of your sin? Do you accept him as your Lord and savior?” Hamilton is asked, according to the video. “Heavenly father, I pray for Alexander, I pray that you bring him peace of mind, that you would restore his family and marriage. In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray.”
Another scene alters the lyrics in “The World Was Wide Enough.” In the original version, Hamilton, played by Miranda, sings: “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me.” The version from the Door McAllen, however, puts a different spin on it.
“What is a legacy?” the actor portraying Hamilton says. “It’s knowing that you repented and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets men free. You sent your sinless son of man on Calvary to die for me!”
More from The Door McAllen church's illegal Christianized "Hamilton."— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) August 7, 2022
The line is supposed to be: "What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me." pic.twitter.com/sTV0fLZjiR
The edited scenes and the sermon comparing being gay to an addiction met with backlash from critics, including Howard Sherman, a theater writer and interim managing director at Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York.
“LGBTQ lives are NOT sinful. Addictions are not sins but illnesses,” Sherman wrote on Facebook. “This church cannot be allowed to deploy ‘Hamilton’ as a tool to spread messages that are contrary to the messages of Hamilton, of musicals, of theater and they cannot be allowed to take artists’ work for their own ends.”
Brown told The Post that the “Hamilton” team informed the church that it could proceed with the Saturday performance if it was not live-streamed or recorded and if no photos or videos of the performance were posted online. The “Hamilton” team “would be discussing this matter with the parties behind this unauthorized production within the coming days once all facts are properly vetted,” Brown said.
“We would like to thank our devoted fans for bringing this to our attention,” Brown said.