CHICAGO — In the first significant disappointment for the hugely successful team behind “Hamilton,” one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time, the spinoff known as “Hamilton the Exhibition” is to close down in Chicago on Aug. 25.
That date is two weeks before the end of the current block of tickets being booked for the walk-through attraction exploring the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The early exit will necessitate refunds for patrons with tickets purchased for Aug. 26 to Sept. 8, and it occurs well before the producers’ more optimistic projections for a project that cost in excess of $13 million to create and erect inside a giant temporary structure on Northerly Island.
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Moreover, the original plan to move the exhibition around the country following the end of the Chicago run has now been abandoned.
“Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller said that his intent now is to sell the exhibit to another company, most likely one that will operate and maintain it on a permanent basis in a tourist-centered destination. He said negotiations were well underway but that he did not yet know where the exhibit, designed by David Korins, would end up. The exterior building used in Chicago, though, is not likely to be part of the deal.
Seller also said that the larger problems with the exhibition were his responsibility.
“You can put it down to my naiveté,” he said. “I built something that was too big, too beautiful, too gigantic to move around.”
The much-praised exhibition, Seller said, would take in excess of 80 trucks to move — something like 10 times the number of vehicles it takes to transport the stage musical. He also said that the decision to close before Labor Day was necessitated by a number of complicating factors in late August involving the site, which is controlled by the Chicago Park District. The Park District has sometimes required the exhibition to close temporarily due to other events at the site and, in August, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start a major reconstruction of the lakefront park, the former site of the Meigs Field airstrip.
By closing Aug. 25, Seller said, he also can avoid a disruptive conflict with both the North Coast Music Festival (slated for Aug. 30 through Sept. 1) as well as the beginning of the regular home season of the Chicago Bears, which hosts the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 5 at the nearby Soldier Field.
Although he declined to offer precise attendance figures, Seller said the exhibition had been popular, especially now that Chicago’s peak tourist season is underway. In general, he put the best face on the situation, saying that the publicity and interest generated by an exhibition that charted new territory for a Broadway show also helped buoy interest in the musical itself, which likely will have generated a staggering $400 million in Chicago ticket sales by the time it leaves the city on Jan. 5.
“We’ve had some great days at the exhibition,” he said, “and we’ve seen people travel all across the country to see it. My pride in Chicago is enormous.”