Hamilton might be well-known as a retelling of a famous figure’s life, but a Texas church has introduced another figure — Jesus Christ — to the mix, performing illegally incorporated Christian-centric rhetoric in an unauthorized production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit 2015 musical.
The Tony-winning musical, still playing on Broadway and in the midst of a North American national tour, is unavailable for licensing by other theater groups.
But that didn’t stop The Door Christian Fellowship Ministries of McAllen from performing their own illegal adaptation, with altered text, on August 5 and 6.
Located in southern Texas, The Door uses popular media, altered to spread a conservative Christian message, as part of its programming. Hamilton is not their first target: past titles have included Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story, both of which can be found on an archived version of the church’s website.
The Door’s production of Hamilton incorporated Christian messaging, and one performance was accompanied with a sermon by Senior Pastor Ramon Gutierrez that compared homosexuality to addiction.
“Maybe you struggle with alcohol, with drugs, with homosexuality,” Gutierrez said. “Maybe you struggle with other things in life, your finances, whatever, God can help you tonight. He wants to forgive you for your sins.”
Miranda, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics for Hamilton, is a famous supporter of LGBTQ rights. One of his Tony Award speeches went viral as he nearly broke down showing support for the LGBTQ community the day after the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. Accepting the prize for Best Original Score for Hamilton, he recited a poem inspired by the events of the prior day.
“This show is proof that history remembers,” he said. “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Aside from Gutierrez’s homophobic sermon, Christian messaging was implanted in both performances. An added scene, which appears nowhere in the original text, portrays Alexander Hamilton “giving his life” to Jesus. Other scenes were altered with references to Christianity not found in the original show.
The church live-streamed and posted videos of the production online, with Gutierrez falsely claiming that The Door had received authorization for the production.
The Hamilton team sent a cease and desist letter to The Door upon being informed of the performance on August 5, according to a Hamilton spokesperson’s statement. The church was able to continue with the August 6 performance as long as the footage was removed from the web, and no further pictures or video taken, but the first performance alone violated copyright laws.
Miranda responded to the controversy on Wednesday through his Twitter account, writing “grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work.”
He also thanked the Dramatists Guild, which condemned the church’s actions on Tuesday, for their support. In a letter, the guild indicated the importance of authorial consent.
“We hold up The Door McAllen Church’s brazen infringement to shine a light on the problem of some theatrical organizations performing authors’ work without a license and rewriting the text without authorial consent,” the letter states. “No organization, professional, amateur, or religious, is exempt from these laws.”
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