Let's talk about that unauthorized Hamilton church production

·3 min read
The legal production of Hamilton
The legal production of Hamilton

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.

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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.