‘Hamilton’ Says It Didn’t Give Texas Church Permission To Perform Musical—And Change It To Be About Jesus


A production of the musical Hamilton mounted by a church in Texas—which changed the show to add religious themes—was unauthorized and performed illegally, a spokesperson for Hamilton said on Monday after the show garnered widespread attention, though producers did allow the church to hold a second performance of the show even after issuing a cease and desist.

Key Facts

A spokesperson for Hamilton on Broadway said the production “did not grant” a license to perform the musical to the Door McAllen Church and RGV Productions, which mounted performances on Friday and Saturday.

According to social media accounts of the church’s production—which was livestreamed on YouTube on Friday—it changed some of the show’s original lyrics and added in religious themes and messaging, such as adding a scene in which Alexander Hamilton accepts Jesus Christ.

It also ended with a post-show sermon that described homosexuality as being a sin, according to social media reports and video, though pastor Roman Gutierrez denied the church is anti-LGBTQ to the Dallas Morning News.

Hamilton’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter to the church on Saturday after being made aware of the “unauthorized” staging, and “demanded the immediate removal” of all photos and videos of the show from the Internet, which the church complied with.

After the church responded to the letter, Hamilton did allow its performance on Saturday to move forward—granting “limited permission” for just that performance—but said there could be no recording or photos of the performance, and the church cannot mount any further productions.

The statement comes after the church claimed during its service on Sunday that Hamilton’s legal team had “giv[en] us the license to perform our version of Hamilton”—which it did not do, as Hamilton producers only granted permission for one performance and not a full license for the production.

What To Watch For

The Hamilton statement said the producers “would be discussing this matter with the parties behind this unauthorized production within the coming days once all facts are properly vetted.” Given that the production was unlicensed, the church could be forced to pay fines should Hamilton decide to pursue action against it. The production being livestreamed on YouTube could also run afoul of Disney, given that the original Broadway production of Hamilton is streaming on Disney+. Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Key Background

Hamilton opened on Broadway in 2015 and has been wildly popular ever since, breaking Broadway box office records and receiving 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. Hamilton’s producers do not grant licenses for any other theaters—including schools and amateur theaters—to perform the musical, given that it’s still running on Broadway and across the country. Musicals and plays typically don’t grant licenses to perform shows that are currently running on Broadway, given that it could dissuade people from seeing the Broadway production if they can see it cheaper locally and cost the production ticket sales. Licenses for musical productions also involve paying fees to receive the official rights and perform the show legally, rather than simply receiving permission from the license holders. Churches do have somewhat more flexibility when it comes to licensing, as there’s an exemption that allows music to be performed during church services without needing to obtain the rights. That doesn’t apply to secular dramatic productions or music that’s performed outside the context of a church service, though, as this production of Hamilton was.

Further Reading

Texas church criticized for its take on ‘Hamilton’ (Dallas Morning News)

Church’s altered ‘Hamilton’ is followed by sermon comparing homosexuality to addiction (Washington Post)

Texas Church Illegally Performs ‘Hamilton’ with Anti-LGBTQ Messaging (OnStage Blog)

Hamilton: How Lin-Manuel Miranda Created A Hit Musical (Forbes)

‘Hamilton’ Transgender Actor Accuses Management Of Discrimination In Federal Complaint (Forbes)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2022/08/08/hamilton-says-it-didnt-give-texas-church-permission-to-perform-musical-and-change-it-to-be-about-jesus/