Arts and Culture

'Hamilton: The Exhibition' debuts in Chicago on April 27

Musical's set designer tells us more about exhibit

David Korins says Chicago was a “no-brainer” destination when it came time for “Hamilton: An American Musical” executives to build and install “Hamilton: The Exhibition.”

The 27,000-square foot, 360-degree adventure will transport patrons into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, one of the United States of America’s founding fathers. It’s slated to open on April 27 on Northerly Island in a temporary building and will move to other cities, likely where the musical’s touring company makes stops. The exhibit is scheduled to close on Sept. 8.

Korins, a New York resident who has achieved rock-star status among theatrical set designers, serves as both set designer and creative director for the Chicago exhibit. Korins was also set designer for the musical, and he created the double revolving turntable stage, scaffolding and catwalk for the musical “Hamilton” that has received colossal acclaim. Korins also designed sets for “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Pee-Wee Herman Show” on Broadway, to name a few. He’s also done sets for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and he won an Emmy Award for “Grease: Live.”

Korins says it was a challenge for collaborators to honor one of the greatest immigrant stories in America’s history for a 2019 exhibit audience. They wanted to “make it deep enough and rich enough to really honor the history, but also bite-size enough and interesting enough to deal with the culture that we’re serving,” Korins says.

One gallery in the exhibit highlights Hamilton’s journey from the Caribbean island of St. Croix in 1772 after a hurricane decimated the area.

Another gallery will relay the rivalry and story of the 1804 duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury.

There will be nods to the musical’s set design sprinkled throughout “Hamilton: The Exhibition.”

“Some of the visual vocabulary of the bricks and the scaffolding and the wood of the Broadway show are referenced, because for me, when I was making the environment for the musical, it was obviously based on a tapestry of early American architecture and the building that were used at the time,” Korins says.

Korins says the exhibit will have a timed entry, with 75 people starting the exhibit every 10 minutes. The average customer will spend 90 minutes roaming the galleries.

“There is a half-hour version if you want to sprint through,” he says. “For the super fan who wants to read every single placard, and read every single panel and listen to every single acoustic guide and look at every single interactive component – they could take two hours.”

In October 2016, Chicago was the first city that the iconic musical opened outside the Broadway stage in New York City. The Windy City’s rich history of museums and learning institutions immediately struck a chord with creators.

“Chicago is centrally located in the country, easily accessible from both coasts and the south, and it is a place that our show will have played to two million people by the time we open [the exhibit], so there will be a wellspring of Hamiltonian fans,” Korins says.

The composition of “Hamilton” the musical covers 30 years of history in 51 songs and 25,000 words in just under four hours. The Chicago production of “Hamilton” is currently being performed at the CIBC Theatre.

Korins is no stranger to Chicago. He’s visited and worked on projects for touring shows and sit-down productions for more than two decades.

“The architecture boat tour is one of my favorite things to do period,” Korins says. “I love Chicago and I have always been fond of it, and getting more and more fond of it.”

Get tickets starting at $39.50 for "Hamilton: The Exhibition" by clicking here


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