The scene at Proctors and the surrounding area of downtown Schenectady was one of controlled chaos Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of people eagerly waited for their chance to the see the area’s final performance of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” A matinee performance brought the show’s 12-day run at Proctors to a close.
The touring Broadway show opened on Aug. 13 at Proctors to a sold-out audience. The show, which premiered Off-Broadway on Jan. 20, 2015, at The Public Theater in New York, has become a cultural phenomenon, with thousands of people who were initially unable to see the show on stage listening to the soundtrack and poring over online videos taken of live shows.
The sung-and-rapped musical about the life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, which features music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is inspired by the 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow.
In 2016, “Hamilton” received a record-setting 16 Tony Award nominations after transferring to Broadway. The first U.S. national tour of the show began in March 2017. This is the third U.S. tour of the musical.
Though the show is wildly popular everywhere it stops, its presence in the Capital Region presented Schenectady with the opportunity to capitalize on a partnership between the theater and surrounding local organizations and businesses, many of which shifted hours to accommodate matinees or later showtimes.
The Whistling Kettle, which recently opened in downtown Schenectady on Jay Street, specifically expanded its hours for the show, general manager Mark Mayo said after Sunday’s lunch rush in the restaurant.
Mayo communicates with both Proctors and Metroplex in Schenectady on a regular basis to brainstorm ways that the new restaurant can become involved in and take advantage of the neighborhood through partnerships and events, and “Hamilton” coming to town was one of those opportunities.
A sign outside of the restaurant notified customers of the expanded hours, and Mayo confirmed that on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, The Whistling Kettle had been open until 8 p.m. to accommodate later shows and matinees.
Over the show’s run, Mayo said the restaurant had seen some spikes in business, mostly before and after matinee shows.
While Mayo said “Hamilton’s” massive popularity and the crowds it brought were a unique boost, he believes that other popular shows at the theater will work the same way in bringing in extra business, and he has plans to further utilize the new collaboration between the restaurant, theater and business groups.
“We’re going to keep an eye on Proctors schedule,” he said.
A line stretched down State Street prior to the show’s start at 2 p.m. to get into the theater.
Inside Proctors, the Apostrophe Cafe & Lounge was packed with attendees sitting at tables with drinks and pre-show lunches, carrying their belongings in clear plastic bags to comply with the extra security measures in place for the show. Hoards of people lined up to get through security at the theater so they could get to their seats early, many sporting “Hamilton” merchandise. A counter selling official show goods, including t-shirts and posters, was also surrounded by a crowd as the show’s 2 p.m. start time drew near.
Janet and Michael Hiser of Castleton, were in the Apostrophe Lounge waiting for the show to start. While Janet Hiser had seen the show before in San Fransisco, she was with her husband to see it with him for his first time on Sunday, as a birthday gift to him. The two were first introduced to the show by their daughter, they said, who loves theater and drama.
The two had listened to the show’s soundtrack and read the companion book prior to Sunday’s show, and Janet Hiser was greatly anticipating seeing it again.
“I love everything. The music, the costumes, it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Probably the best show I’ve ever seen,” she said. “When you see it in person, you get to see the story being told on the stage.”
“To actually see it on stage I believe has a lot more impact,” Michael Hiser said.
Courtney Powers of Cohoes, and Karla Powers of Troy, were attending the show together and were also waiting in the lounge before the show’s start.
“I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for three years,” Courtney Powers said. For her, the most exciting part of the afternoon was the opportunity to see in real life what she had been hearing for so many years.
“It sounds cliche, but being in the room where it actually happens will be amazing,” she said.
“The local ties are cool too,” Karla Powers said.
Proctors chief executive officer Philip Morris was in the theater greeting patrons before the start of Sunday’s matinee performance and said that while Proctors had hosted popular shows in the past, the response to “Hamilton” was unique. Across the two week run, 43,200 people had come to see the show, both from New York State and out of state, according to Morris.
“The energy for this is unusual,” he said. “It’s still that go-to thing.”
“Hamilton” in itself is unusual, Morris said, in that it’s not only a hip-hop and rap heavy show that naturally attracts younger demographics, but that it has also become a hit for countless other audiences as well.
“This show does cross all kinds of boundaries, which is why it’s so powerful,” he said.
It also didn’t hurt that in hosting the show, Proctors brought people out in droves to the theater, he added.
“This is Schenectady showing itself off,” he said.