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Texas church under fire for staging unauthorized production of 'Hamilton' musical that added religious text

Lawyers for 'Hamilton' issued a cease-and-desist letter to The Door McAllen for its performances this past weekend

DALLAS — A Texas church's full-scale production of "Hamilton" the musical was not authorized by the Broadway show's management, WFAA has learned.

A spokesperson for "Hamilton" confirmed The Door McAllen did not receive a license to stage the show for its performances that it hosted on August 5 and 6.

Clips from the church's production went viral on TikTok after The Door posted a video of Friday night's full performance to YouTube.

In a statement to WFAA, a "Hamilton" spokesperson said Monday that "'Hamilton' does not grant amateur or professional licenses for any stage productions and did not grant one to The Door Church."

The spokesperson said "Hamilton" issued a cease-and-desist letter to the church on Saturday after learning about the unauthorized staging. It further demanded that all videos and pictures relating to the production be removed from online platforms.

After issuing the letter, The Door was allowed to proceed with its Saturday evening performance under the conditions that it wasn't live-streamed or recorded, and that no photos or videos from the production be posted online, according to the spokesperson.

The Door also had to agree they would not mount any further productions of the show.

The "Hamilton" team plans to discuss with the church its unauthorized production "within the coming days," according to the spokesperson.

"Hamilton" is the "history-inspired" story of Alexander Hamilton's life and political career as he helped shape American government and politics during our country's founding. The show's performers sing and rap to the Tony Award-winning lyrics and music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The church's production, which featured youth actors, also included set and costumes nearly identical to the copyrighted Broadway material, as well as its original score. It additionally included script changes that featured religious references.

In one modified song, according to videos posted online, the character Eliza Hamilton sang to the character of Alexander:

"My hope is in Jesus.
If you could just give him a chance today...
That would be enough."

A sermon by a pastor from the church following Friday's performance compared homosexuality to addiction and encouraged people "struggling" with homosexuality to seek guidance from God.

In a follow-up statement to WFAA on Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for "Hamilton" said, "The 'Hamilton' family stands for tolerance, compassion, inclusivity and certainly LGBTQ+ rights. We are in the process of reviewing the unauthorized changes made to the script to determine further action."

The spokesperson quoted Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2016 Tony Award acceptance speech in which Miranda said, "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside," referencing the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that killed 49 people and injured 53 others.

The Door did not charge admission for its production, according to the EventBrite page for the performances. After word spread about the church's unauthorized show, the EventBrite page showed Saturday's performance was cancelled.

But an email to people who RSVPed to attend the show confirmed that the performance was allowed to go on per the agreement with the "Hamilton" team.

"Hamilton" is one of Broadway's most popular musicals, often playing to higher-than-capacity audiences. For the week ending July 31 alone, the Broadway production of "Hamilton" grossed $2,246,748, according to the Broadway League. 

"Hamilton" currently boasts three North American touring casts, a residency offering in London and an Australian production.

Because the show currently does not grant amateur or professional licenses for stage productions, many observers cast doubt that The Door's production was legal.

U.S. copyright law allows exemptions for churches and other houses of worship, but only to non-dramatic works.

During Sunday morning's service at The Door McAllen, Pastor Roman Gutierrez thanked the "Hamilton" team for "giving [the church] license to perform [their] version of 'Hamilton'." 

However, the show's spokesperson said that no license was granted, and  that Saturday's performance was only allowed under the agreed-upon conditions.

The church also posted online a promo video for their production that used a music track similar to what Disney used to promote its "Hamilton" stream. Disney owns the film rights to "Hamilton" after it struck a $75 million deal that led to its Disney+ service streaming a recording of the original Broadway cast's performance.

Disney has not responded to a request for comment about The Door's promotional video and stream.

This is not the first time The Door has created productions using well-known copyrighted material.

According to its website, The Door previously produced shows including "Beauty and the Beast" and "Toy Story".

Links to videos of those productions on The Door's YouTube page are set to private.

Disney also has not commented about The Door's prior productions.

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