The hit musical Hamilton may have debuted on Broadway, but creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will launch “Hamilton: The Exhibition” in Chicago, gracing Northerly Island with an immersive, stand-alone show (housed in a customized temporary structure) that allows visitors to follow Alexander Hamilton’s path from immigrant to a framer of the Constitution. More than a simple display of props, costumes and artifacts, “Hamilton: The Exhibition” uses the popular musical as a jumping-off point for a multimedia exploration of key moments throughout Hamilton's life. Before it opens to the public on April 27, the exhibit’s creative director (and the musical’s set designer) David Korins spoke with us about five things that visitors can expect from this one-of-a-kind experience.
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1. Lin-Manuel Miranda in your ear
Upon entering the exhibit, guests are given headsets that are triggered by sensors placed throughout the space, allowing Miranda to serve as the narrator of Hamilton’s journey from orphan to founding father. Some items and areas inside the exhibit come equipped with even more audio information, which visitors can access by pushing a button on their lanyards. “People who want to read and engage in every single thing can spend more than two hours in the exhibit,” says Korins.
2. An extended journey
Whereas Hamilton abridged many parts of its protagonist’s life, the 20,000-square-foot showcase has more than enough room to expand upon it. Attendees can explore a representation of the St. Croix trading post where Hamilton worked and learned about economics at the age of 14 and experience the final 32 hours of his life after he was shot in a deadly duel with his rival Aaron Burr. There's also a section devoted to the Revolutionary War, recreating a barracks in the camp that General George Washington established in Morristown, New Jersey
3. Surreal sights
Prepare your mind (and your Instagram account) for what Korins describes as “elevated spaces, ones that work on multiple planes of reality.” Guests can take in a sculpture that represents the hurricane that spurred Hamilton’s journey to the U.S. from St. Croix and walk across a 70-foot parchment map of Manhattan, circa 1772, outfitted with scale models of Fraunces Tavern, King’s College and other key landmarks.
4. A familiar soundtrack
Craving one more Hamildrop? Composer Alex Lacamoire personally rearranged the musical’s beloved score to fit the project’s expanded scope, stripping away the lyrics to create a dramatic backdrop for your journey. “You get to hear familiar hooks and beats, but they’re redone and re-orchestrated with new interpretations, both musically and instrumentally,” says Korin.
5. A welcoming place for Hamilton virgins
“For people who don’t know Hamilton, [the exhibit is] an artistic and dramatic look at U.S. history,” says Korins. If you’re still trying to win the ticket lottery or you’re simply not a #HamFan, you don’t have to know the lyrics to “Aaron Burr, Sir” to enjoy the experience housed within “Hamilton: The Exhibition.”