Hamilton to repeat its success and write musical history in Hamburg?
If a musical is a measure of the value of culture, then the hit U.S. musical Hamilton is breaking all records. Fans paid around USD 1,000 (EUR 969) for a ticket to the Broadway show in 2015. "They were probably black market prices, so we don't know exact figures. But astronomical sums were paid for a ticket to the sold-out shows," said Stephan Jaekel, Press Officer of Stage Entertainment GmbH. The huge success of the musical, set in the 18th century, took even the show’s creators by surprise. Historical figures such as George Washington are played by interracial people. Charles Simmons, the winner of "The Voice of Germany”, will play Washington in the German-language version of the show when it opens in Hamburg on October 6, 2022. The musical draws heavily on hip-hop, but on R&B, pop, soul and show tunes as well. Jaekel noted: "It was a gamble and it has paid off. Meanwhile, prices have returned to normal, but demand is still strong and the show sells out night after night." Hamilton is a roaring success and has replaced “The Lion King” as the Broadway musical with the costliest tickets. But can such success be repeated in Hamburg, where the Disney classic has been running successfully since December 2001?
From rags to riches as a universal theme
"'The Lion King' revolutionised the industry with the adorable puppets. Now, Hamilton is presenting another quantum leap in musical history. I am fully convinced of that," said Jaekel. "The story is about the American founding fathers and Alexander Hamilton is only the superficial story. In fact, it is a universal theme about the personal fate of the protagonist, who makes it from rags to riches with zest and intelligence." The narrative is still valid in the 21st century and is a source of inspiration for many. "Charismatic people can really make the world a better place. And the musical tells this in a wonderfully-sophisticated and accessible way," he noted.
Hamilton opening up genre for new target groups
The material and the production appeal to entirely new target groups. "Hamilton gives us an opportunity to show that musicals are not simply a la Andrew Lloyd Webber and romantic Disney material. Musicals can convey challenging material in an entertaining manner and offer food for thought," said Jaekel. The success in the United States and the exorbitant prices have stirred up interest among other circles. Musical fans are now being joined by hip-hop enthusiasts and young, social media-savvy people who have come across Hamilton on Instagram or YouTube, but have never been to a musical. The show is their first experience of the genre. "Developing new audiences is extremely important to us. We now have to convince our regular audiences that the 43-strong cast of Hamilton will sweep them off their feet." Advance sales are going well so far and "we are well on our way to the premiere on October 6 in the Operettenhaus," said Jaekel.
More musical theatres and visitors to Hamburg
Stage Entertainment has invested around EUR 13 million in the German premiere and if the marketing strategy pays off, the musical is likely to make waves across Hamburg. Successful new productions are hugely profitable for Hamburg, which is the third largest musical hotspot after New York and London. In 2018, four Stage Entertainment venues in Hamburg alone generated around EUR 600 million in external customer value through overnight stays, catering, shopping and visits to other sights and museums, a company survey found. "We are planning the next survey for 2023 and will ask out-of-town visitors why they visited the city. In 2018, 80 per cent said they came to see a musical." However, it remains to be seen whether the numbers in 2023 will seamlessly match those of 2018. "Audiences are coming back fast and strong. Obviously, they really missed the magic of live entertainment. Visitor numbers are now back to pre-coronavirus levels. But a year and a half of lockdowns cannot be compensated for quickly." Although Jaekel has hinted at plans for a possible fifth musical venue to significantly boost attendance, nothing is set in stone yet, saying merely, "we are thinking about it." Watch this space for more news.
Stage Entertainment GmbH
Stage Entertainment GmbH develops and produces live entertainment and employs around 2,000 people. Founded in 1998 by Joop van den Ende in the Netherlands and bought by the U.S. media company Advance Publications in 2018, the company has around 80 productions which are performed in 19 theatres across the globe including four in Hamburg.