WMC goes overseas to dig up Hamilton musical’s roots

Kontji Anthony visits Alexander Hamilton’s home in Nevis

WMC's Kontji Anthony visits birthplace of Alexander Hamilton

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - He’s on our $10 bill, and Alexander Hamilton’s life story means big bucks for Orpheum Theatre Memphis as they kick off opening night of "Hamilton: An American Musical” Tuesday.

The theater’s group president and CEO, Brett Batterson, says the play helped nearly double their season ticket holders.

“We have over 13,000 season ticket holders this year,” Batterson explained. “The largest number we’ve had in the past was about 6,800, and that was the first year ‘The Lion King’ came to Memphis,” he continued.

What is happening in Memphis is similar to what’s happening in Hamilton’s homeland of Nevis. The hit play’s namesake was a United States founding father raised on the British island of Nevis until age 9.

WMC Action News 5’s Kontji Anthony went overseas to Hamilton’s childhood home and learned why the play is a win-win, both here and abroad.

“The island of Nevis has indeed benefited from the popularity of Hamilton on Broadway,” said Hamilton Museum Board Member Kris Liburd.

Located in the Lesser Antilles just east of Puerto Rico, Nevis is a 36-mile island with roughly 11,000 residents, known for its coconut palm trees, sugar-soft white sands, and frequent visits by the late Princess of Wales, Lady Di.

Historians say the largely Anglican island was named after the Spanish “Nuestra de las Nieves,” meaning “Our Lady of Snows” because the cloud-capped peak of the island’s volcano appears to be a halo of snow.

Nevisians are excited the play is now touring in American cities like Memphis.

“In recent times, we have seen a number of visitors visiting the island just to come and see Hamilton’s birthplace,” Liburd observed. “They want to walk on the grounds Hamilton played on, to breathe the air Hamilton breathed.”

He says their tourism sector is seeing an economic boom, as Americans seek out Nevis' sun, sea and sand.

“They stay at our hotels, eat at our restaurants and really experience life that is truly Nevisian,” Liburd added.

The Orpheum says it’s no secret their record season was driven largely by people desperate to get their hands on tickets to the musical about the man who established the U.S. financial system and died in a dramatic duel. “Hamilton is a phenomenon unlike anything Broadway has ever seen and this is happening all over the country,” Batterson pointed out.

Liburd says Hamilton's birthplace played an integral role in his development as an adult. That's because Hamilton's home was located near a slave market in the 1700s.

“And by him being here on this property, he would have witnessed some of the injustices the slaves would have gone through during their time on the island,” Liburd explained further.

A fitting story for Memphis, a battleground for civil rights.

“As we know, Hamilton was an abolitionist,” said Liburd. “He did not believe in the practice of slavery and I think that what he saw here (in Nevis) as a child really helped to shape his viewpoint on something that has been so controversial for a number of years.”

Liburd has this hope for the play: “I would love for the producers to bring the play right here to Nevis. I think it would be the icing on the cake,” he smiled.

The Orpheum Theatre has a contest where you can win a free trip to the island of Nevis. Click here to enter the contest.

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