CHICAGO — The Chicago production of “Hamilton” will close Jan. 5, 2020, the Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller said Wednesday.
The date of closing is not a surprise. By the time it plays its final show, the hit musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda will have played 1,365 performances over 171 weeks, or a little over three years and three months. Its first Chicago performance was on Sept. 27, 2016 and, by January, some 2.8 million people will likely have seen the musical at the CIBC Theatre.
“All shows close some time, and I want to go out on a high,” Seller said. “That’s better for the brand, and it’s better for Chicago. ‘Hamilton’ has been a colossal triumph in this city.”
Seller declined to discuss precise financial figures, as his policy, but he did not contest a reporter’s back-of-an-envelope calculation that the Chicago production, which has a weekly gross potential of about $2.1 million and has sold out most of its performances, will have grossed close to $350 million in Chicago, making it far and away the most financially successful theatrical show in the history of the city. Indeed, Seller claimed, those figures also should eclipse any Broadway show in New York during this period, excepting the New York production of “Hamilton.”
Economists vary widely in how they calculate indirect spending from arts events, but even a conservative multiple would put the economic impact of the show in Chicago in the billion-dollar range. Lou Raizin, the president of Broadway in Chicago, which markets the show, said Wednesday night that more than half of its audience has come from more than 100 miles away, boosting hotel occupancy and restaurant business in the Loop.
By any historic standards, this first “Hamilton” production after Broadway has enjoyed an extraordinarily long and lucrative run. Since the 1,800-seat CIBC Theatre is far larger than the show’s home in New York, the 1,300-seat Richard Rodgers Theatre, more people have seen the show in Chicago than New York, although the Broadway production typically has commanded a higher average ticket price. “Hamilton” also will not be the longest running show of its kind in Chicago history: between 2005 and 2009, “Wicked” played in Chicago at what was then the Oriental Theatre for several months longer.
Seller, though, is dealing with a different phenomenon. Even though he acknowledged that “Hamilton” could run at a profit in Chicago for another year at least, he said he does not want to have to discount any tickets or tolerate empty seats at Wednesday matinees. As previously reported by the Tribune, touring productions of the show are slated to play in cities as close to Chicago as Milwaukee and Madison, eroding what is known in the commercial theater industry as Chicago’s zone of clearance. Discounting ticket prices in Chicago threatens the value of seats in other cities, especially in New York, where good weekend seats routinely command prices north of $500. And national demand for the show remains sky-high, especially in cities that have not been exposed to the production.
The Chicago production was not built to tour and will close, not move. That said, its cast members, including Miguel Cervantes, who likely will have played the lead role in Chicago for the entire run, now will be available for one of the other touring productions. In the coming months and years, “Hamilton” is likely to concentrate its expansion more on international markets, such as continental Europe and Australia, although one of its North American tours will eventually return to Chicago.
Seller flew to Chicago on Wednesday to notify the cast of the closing in person, a courtesy he said the actors both deserved and seemed to appreciate. Miranda also stopped by the Chicago staging recently, during his visit to promote the opening of “Hamilton: The Exhibition” on Northerly Island.
Seller said that “Hamilton: The Exhibition” was too new to assess its success and that the results over the early summer likely would determine how long it stays (its running costs are relatively low). Here again, though, he did not challenge a reporter’s assertion that logic would suggest that the exhibition leave with the show, following the busy holiday season.
The formal announcement was, of course, timed with the release on Friday of the final block of tickets for “Hamilton,” working under the theory that news of the closing, even seven months away, would result in a surge in demand. “Hamilton” has attracted enormous amounts of repeat business: Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s Mayor elect, has said in public that she has seen the show on multiple occasions. It’s a reasonable expectation that many people will want to go one more time.