Broadway can’t say no to Iowa — and the Des Moines Civic Center is the room where it’s happening for nearly three weeks with “Hamilton” onstage.
“I think we sometimes downplay the fact that we are a terrific market for Broadway,” said Jeff Chelesvig, president and CEO Des Moines Performing Arts. “So it was never a matter of ‘if’ we were going to get ‘Hamilton,’ it was a matter of ‘when.’ To be in the first year of a tour is quite remarkable.”
The show opened Wednesday and continues through July 15, with 24 sold-out performances.
The Pulitzer Prize-winner swept up 11 Tony Awards in 2016, including “Best Musical” and honors for music, book, lead and featured actors, design, direction, choreography and orchestrations. The cast recording won a Grammy, and the show racked up nominations and wins from every major entity bestowing awards, It’s also broken box office records, reportedly bringing in $30 million in advance sales before opening on Broadway in the summer of 2015.
“What’s really interesting, if you look at this season now ending with ‘Hamilton,’ to say that we presented three of the top Tony Award-winning shows of 2016 in this season — with ‘The Humans,’ with ‘The Color Purple’ and now ‘Hamilton’ — very few theaters in the country can say that,” Chelesvig said.
“The curation of our series is something that I take very seriously. I feel like our audiences are really ready for a lot of different things, and obviously, with ‘Hamilton,’ it wasn’t something where I could say, ‘Hey, I want to be in the first-year tour,’ because everybody was saying that.
“It is something that represents the fact that we do so well with touring Broadway, and have done that for years, which certainly played into that. We’re very honored and very pleased.”
Chelesvig started discussions with the tour’s booking agents when the Pulitzer Prize-winning show opened on Broadway, looking at potential dates to land the show in the Civic Center.
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“Everything was kind of up the air for a long time,” he said. The email confirmation arrived while he was in London in April 2016. “It was quite a moment,” he said.
Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, the musical tells the story of the immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and became the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. With a mix of hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway styles, the show is described as “the story of America then, as told by America now.”
Chelesvig has seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster hit twice in New York, shortly after it opened in 2015 and again in May of 2016. Still, he can’t quite put his finger on why the hip-hop history lesson has been such a runaway success across the generations.
“It has really been a show that seems to appeal to a very wide audience,” he said. “I don’t’ know that I can speculate why that is so. Truly, in all of the years that I’ve been in show business, I’ve really not seen anything like it. The appeal seems to be very universal — it is young people, it is older people, people of different cultures — and I can’t explain it.
“I think it’s quite genius how it has become such a juggernaut in the Broadway world. It’s quite remarkable.”
The Des Moines shows sold out in a flash — 24 performances in a 2,744-seat venue.
“It took a good six to eight hours,” Chelesvig pointed out. “We were very careful to make sure the online waiting room worked well. It was a fun day.”
Sold-out in a manner of speaking. In keeping with the show’s Broadway tradition, 40 tickets are being released two days before each performance, up for grabs through a digital lottery. People ages 18 and over can access it on the Hamilton app for smartphones and online at Hamiltonmusical.com/lottery. Winners will be notified at 11 a.m. the next day, and have until 4 p.m. to buy up to two tickets online with a credit card.
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The price for the lottery tickets? $10 — the denomination bearing Alexander Hamilton’s portrait.
WHERE: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines
WHEN: To July 15; various times
TICKETS: Sold out, but 40 $10 tickets are being released daily by lottery via the “Hamilton” app and Hamiltonmusical.com/lottery
LOTTERY: Opens at 11 a.m. two days before the performance date and closes at 9 a.m. one day before the performance date, with just one entry per person; after the lottery closes, winners and non-winners will be informed by 11 a.m. and have until 4 p.m. to buy up to two tickets the day before the performance; full details at Desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/hamilton/
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