Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary admission to the Hamilton tour by Broadway Up Close in exchange for an open and honest feature.
Most Broadway tours focus on the history of New York City’s performance industry or dive behind the scenes of one specific theatre. However, the ‘HamilTour’ (Hamilton musical tour by Broadway Up Close) takes participants around historical sites in the Big Apple, combining American history with fascinating facts about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit.
This is a must for hard-core Hamilton: An American Musical fans visiting NYC, but it’s still enjoyable for companions who embark on the tour without having seen the live performance. (Listening to the soundtrack once through will get you sufficiently up to speed.)
Broadway Up Close Walking Tours
Broadway Up Close (BUC) runs a range of walking tours in New York City, including Broadway’s Beginnings and a haunted Broadway tour. Their licensed guides are all professional working actors or stage managers, and they provide real insider insight. Founder, Tim Dolan, researches and cleverly compiles all of BUC’s tours. Our engaging tour was led by Amanda, who double-majored in theatre and history, and presented the facts in a friendly and animated way.
You can booking information for the HamilTour on their website: https://www.broadwayupclose.com/hamiltour.
HamilTour: The Tour Where It Happened
The Hamilton tour begins by situating the attendees in the early days of New York City, describing how the area evolved when the British settled it – after the Dutch had originally claimed and named the area New Amsterdam. But the tour really gets cooking when the group dives into the tense times preceding the American Revolutionary War.
Walking with a tour guide, you stop at landmarks that locals and tourists just pass by – like the glass floor that reveals the 17th Century foundation of the Dutch Lovelace Tavern. You’ll get to stop across the street from the George Washington’s old favorite hangout (rebuilt since his time) – where he planned to throw his retirement party before being summoned to act as the first president of the USA. You will also discover who started the home delivery food service with a special type of food wrapper.
One of my favorite landmarks in the city’s financial district was accompanied by a triumphant American story about how the patriots dealt with a parting prank from the British on their retreat from town. While this victorious day was celebrated as ‘Evacuation Day’ for many decades, you’ll come to know why a sitting President replaced the holiday with Thanksgiving and how the rising revolutionary sentiment gave King George III’s statue from Bowling Green Park a particularly ironic fate.
The tour guide references many of the songs to indicate certain points of time in history and incorporates interesting Broadway musical facts, too. You’ll hear about previous set ideas for the opening scene and which two elements of the show were modified or removed because they were deemed too distracting to the audience. And you’ll find out which prop took eight months to design and create – all for less than five minutes’ use during each performance.
In addition to taking in facts and sights on the Hamilton tour by Broadway Up Close, you also hear stories about performing in the musical, so you really feel like a Broadway insider. Amanda recounted her friend’s rollercoaster of a day while working as a swing – a role similar to an understudy, but one that requires an actor to stand in for a number or different parts. At the end of the story, you will understand why he was left in the stage wings in his undergarments just as the show was about to begin.
We also learned about the famous audience members who viewed the performance including the former sitting President Barack Obama, who had the power to ban the use of guns in the Broadway show, since Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot in a theater. Obama turned down the offer, but that would have been quite a unique version to watch!
The Hamilton musical tour ends at Hamilton’s final resting place in a church graveyard. His wife, Eliza, worked hard to convince the church to allow him a marked grave site, since dying in a duel was to revoke this privilege – as was the case with Alexander and Eliza’s son, Philip. We contemplate Hamilton’s extraordinary role in early US history by his ornate marker – and learn that his popularity by way of Miranda’s captivating musical is likely what saved his place on the $10 bill.
“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”– Alexander Hamilton, c. 1755 – 1804
How many times have you seen the hit show Hamilton? And did you know that there was a dedicated (unaffiliated) tour in New York? Talk to us in the comments section below!