Texas church under fire for “Hamilton” re-write


"A thoroughly delightful evening at @hamiltonmusical SF." by Jess Liotta and Colin Liotta CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The house lights dim and the stage lights come up, and suddenly, you realize that this isn’t really “Hamilton.”

Close your eyes and imagine this: your friend buys you tickets for a production of “Hamilton” as a present for you. The advertising looks similar to the Broadway production, but it’s a rather blatant copy. You take your seat in the auditorium, excited (or nervous) about the production ahead.

You look at the set and marvel at how much attention to detail the company paid. The actor playing King George delivers the pre-show announcement, just like the real production. The house lights dim and the stage lights come up, and suddenly, you realize that this isn’t really “Hamilton.”

That is exactly what happened on the weekend of August 5th and 6th at The Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church in McAllen, Texas. RGV Productions, the theatrical arm of this particular church, produced their version of “Hamilton” as a form of outreach. A few eager young people jumped at the opportunity to perform their favorite musical and possibly win some souls for Christ in the process.

However, RGV Productions ran into a small problem: “Hamilton” was not available for licensing in any form. The fear of legal repercussions did not stop them, and they proceeded with the production as usual. In the resulting fallout, it became clear that this wasn’t their first rodeo when it came to copyright violations.

It came to light that the group had a previous history of unauthorized productions of well-known films, such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Despicable Me,” and “Elf.” Chris Peterson of OnStage Blog was one of the first outlets to cover the fallout as a result of the unauthorized production.

While high schools and church groups have had to sanitize lyrics or dialogue to fit their audience since the dawn of time, RGV Productions took the process of making their production “church-friendly” a step further.

One such example of making the script church-friendly was during “That Would Be Enough.” The actress playing Eliza Schuyler sang the following lyrics: “I am not afraid. My hope is in Jesus. If you could give him one chance today, that would be enough.” This particular change (among others) was lambasted by the “Hamilton” fan community on TikTok, with content creators lip-syncing to the audio of those lyrics.

Another example of blatant changes to the dialogue and script occurs during a scene prior to “It’s Quiet Uptown.” According to this particular version of “Hamilton,” Alexander Hamilton has not only lost his son but also experienced the dissolution of his marriage to Eliza (as in the original version). However, this production also includes a scene where Hamilton and a random gentleman talk out their situation.

Their conversation leads to “Hamilton” accepting Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Out of all the changes made in this production, this change has some basis in historical record. It was stated in Ron Chernow’s biography of “Hamilton,” which served as the source material for Lin Manuel-Miranda’s production, that Alexander Hamilton accepted Christianity towards the end of his life. It was also said that Hamilton received last rites from an Episcopal priest.

However, the icing on the cake with this production was the altar call that the lead pastor gave after the production. He was quoted as saying that God could help those who “struggle with alcohol, drugs, and homosexuality.” This served as an additional layer to the existing controversy that came from the church administration lying about even having a license to perform the show in the first place.

After the production’s clips circulated on social media, users on various platforms brought the production to the “Hamilton” public relations and legal teams’ attention. Lin Manuel-Miranda issued a statement on Twitter thanking his followers for their concern and stating “now lawyers do their work.”

The Door McAllen was later ordered by “Hamilton’s” legal team to pay damages of an unspecified amount. In a rather ironic twist of fate, all proceeds that came from the damages are going to the South Texas Equality Project, which is an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.