We’re officially coining summer ‘22 as The Summer Of The Unauthorized Musical Lawsuit. (Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue?)
A few short weeks after Netflix announced their suit against Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, creators of the Grammy-winning Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, The Summer Of The Unauthorized Musical Lawsuit has struck again–this time from the team behind Hamilton, a musical about the creation of the United States government, against a church in Texas who tweaked the show’s lyrics to sound a little more like, well, certain members of our actual government today.
absolutely losing my last two brain cells over this church in Texas that put on a production of Hamilton…and made it about Jesus pic.twitter.com/KkZe8jVwnu
— patrick mcCann (@ptrckMcC) August 7, 2022
The Door McAllen Church, located in McAllen, Texas, live-streamed their performance of the Tony-winning musical earlier this week, which immediately went viral on social media. Apart from the undeniable cringe-factor, fans were also quick to point out that some of the lyrics were a little more Jesus-centric than they remembered. (For example, the verse, “But I’m not afraid / I know who I married / So long as you come home at the end of the day / That would be enough” was changed to: “But I am not afraid / My hope is in Jesus / If you could just give him a chance today / That would be enough.”) Per OnStage Blog, the church’s pastor also delivered a sermon at the show’s conclusion that included anti-LGBTQ+ messaging.
Per The New York Times, the church claimed to have received permission from the Hamilton team to go ahead with their production. They were sent a cease-and-desist letter, however, after the team became aware of the live-streamed performance. Shane Marshall Brown, a Hamilton spokesman, claimed that the show’s representatives “were not aware of the lyric changes or the sermon when they allowed Saturday’s show to go forward.” In a statement to The New York Times, he said: “The Hamilton family stands for tolerance, compassion, inclusivity and certainly L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights. We are in the process of reviewing the unauthorized changes made to the script to determine further action.”
Hamilton creator Lin Manual Miranda weighed in today with a retweeted statement from The Dramatists Guild. He wrote: “Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work. And always grateful to the @dramatistsguild, who have the backs of writers everywhere, be it your first play or your fiftieth.”
The full statement from The Dramatists Guild reads as follows:
The Dramatists Guild condemns the Door McAllen Church for its unauthorized production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton, performed on August 5 and August 6, 2022, in McAllen, Texas. In addition to performing the show without a license, the Door McAllen Church changed lyrics and added text without permission.
We hold up the Door McAllen Church’s brazen infringement to shine a light on the problematic pattern of some theatrical organizations performing authors’ work without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent. No organization, professional, amateur, or religious, is exempt from these laws.
No writer’s work, whether they are a student who has just written their first play, or Lin-Manuel Miranda, can be performed without their permission. And it is never okay to change the words, lyrics, or notes, without their express consent.