360-degree interactive exhibition for Hamilton hits Chicago this April.
By Alice Burdick Schweiger
The people behind the Broadway musical Hamilton will satisfy the curiosity of its multitude of fans with a sprawling, high-tech, interactive, 360-degree immersive attraction that tells the Founding Father’s story and answers questions that go above and beyond the musical.
Hamilton: The Exhibition premiers April 6 in Chicago. Upon entering a 27,000-square-foot all-weather tent at Chicago’s Northerly Island, visitors will be greeted with an introductory video by Lin-Manuel Miranda on a huge projection screen. His voice will also provide narration throughout the entire experience.
Visitors will pass through more than 20 rooms, hallways and galleries, learning that “history is not inevitable,” says David Korins, the exhibition’s creative director who also designed the set for the Hamilton stage production.
“Because Hamilton has sparked intense conversation about the founders and framers of our country, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into the subject matter with real museum/exhibition rigor,” Korins explains.
Hamilton lead producer Jeffrey Seller, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, along with Korins, are the key players getting this project into motion.
“Jeffrey grew up in Detroit and had important seminal experiences as a child going to museums there,” says Korins, who grew up in a Reform Jewish home in Mansfield, Mass. “He was enamored with the idea of children learning about history in a new and interesting way and educating them through an important pop-culture experience.”
But, says Korins, who has created set designs for numerous Broadway shows including Motown the Musical and Dear Evan Hansen, “while in the musical it was necessary to take some poetic license in creating an artistic endeavor, the exhibition goes further into the subject matter to talk more specifically about what actually happened.”
For historical accuracy, the group consulted with Hamiltonian experts Joanne Freeman, professor at Yale, and Annette Gordon-Reed, professor at Harvard.
The journey through Hamilton’s life and the history of the American Revolution takes visitors from the Caribbean island of St. Croix, where Hamilton became a trader and was caught in a swirling hurricane that swept the island, all the way to the dueling grounds in Weehawken, N.J., where Hamilton was fatally shot.
Among the attractions, attendees will walk down a gangplank into the streets of New York, observe George Washington’s war tent, see Hamilton’s office and visit the Schuyler mansion, where they will meet historical figures including George and Martha Washington.
Visitors will learn what it took to form our country and for Britain to surrender. There’s also a Legacy Room that shows what Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, did for the 50 years after his death. Throughout the exhibit, replicas from the era will be on display, and music from the Hamilton soundtrack will be heard.
“I am excited to show how Alexander Hamilton’s story was one of the best immigrant stories in our country’s history,” Korins says. “He started with nothing and moved to the height of politics. He designed our electoral college, our financial system, our immigration policy. He was one of the most important figures in history.”
For now, the exhibition is scheduled to run in Chicago through September. There is talk of taking it on the road to more cities around the country.
“We chose Chicago because it’s right in the middle of the country, accessible to a lot of people, is a great museum town and is where the musical Hamilton has been playing for 2½ years,” Korins says.
“Chicago wanted us here, and they have the space and land to mount this huge endeavor. My hope and dream is that we can bring as many people as possible to see the exhibit, and that we can spark a deep and meaningful conversation on what it means to be an American.”
Tickets are timed and available on Ticketmaster.com and HamiltonExhibition.com. $39.50, adults; $32.50, seniors/military; $25, ages 4-14. For groups of 10 or more, contact Broadway in Chicago at (312) 977-1710.