Sometimes, the show must go on, even if the performers have never actually seen it.
Such was the mantra for Clinton Canady IV, the entrepreneur behind “HamiltunesDC,” a singalong celebration of the hit musical “Hamilton.”
Canady was visiting a friend in Los Angeles in February when he happened upon a West Coast singalong called “HamiltunesLA.” In less than two months, he partnered with friends at District Karaoke to reproduce the experience at a drum store on Rhode Island Avenue. More than 60 people showed up to sing every song in the 2 ½- hour show, even though most, like Canady, had never seen it performed on Broadway.
On July 3, a second, larger gathering at Busboys and Poets followed. Then, on Aug. 13, Canady and his girlfriend finally scored tickets to see the musical on Broadway. The next day, tickets for the third “Hamiltunes” sold out, and Canady pressed on with plans to stage his biggest gathering yet, knowing that, at least for now, the singalong is the closest a lot of these young and not-so-young, scrappy and hungry fans might ever get to seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show.
“Our goal is not to make it an exclusive event, like seeing ‘Hamilton,’ at the Richard Rodgers Theatre has become,’” Canady said. “Hamiltunes allows people to express themselves, and share their love of the show.”
Who are these folks raising glasses for the freedom to sing along? They are corporate lawyers, drama teachers, National Public Radio producers, stay-at-home moms and U.S. Army servicemen. But at Hamiltunes, most are known only by their stage names. (Canady goes by “Classic C,” but most monikers are somehow tied to the show.) After buying $15 Hamiltunes tickets for the Aug. 26 events, patrons submitted a list of songs and parts they’d like to sing. For example, “Cookie” successfully requested to sing the role of siren Maria Reynolds in “Say No to This.” Canady and Jesse Rauch, his partner from District Karaoke, keep track on a spreadsheet, which they eventually opened up to everyone attending to fill in the blanks.
One of “Hamilton’s” many hallmarks is its diverse cast; the only lead role played by a Caucasian is that of King George. Appropriately, the 160 singers who came to the Edgewood Arts Center in Brookland were a veritable human rainbow, and each role was fair game for every race and gender. Singers passed an “A. Ham” baseball cap around to each volunteer who took a turn singing the role of the Founding Father, whether it was an Asian girl, a Latino guy or Canady himself. Rachel Horn, a NPR producer, jumped gamely into the burly role of Colonial spy Hercules Mulligan. Dan Kois, a culture editor of Slate, claimed the part of Schulyer sister Peggy in a trio for “Hamilton’s” female leads.
“We’ve had a balding Peggy, so why not a female King George?” singer Elle Gitlin quipped on Twitter.