The producers of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” say they are standing by their controversial national-tour casting notice that seeks “nonwhite performers,” though that phrasing was removed by Thursday morning.
The notice, which had caused a furor on social media, appeared on the show’s website and in the trade publication Backstage.com, said CNN. It specified nonwhite performers — in capital letters — for the road company of writer-composer-star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the American founding fathers, whose Broadway cast comprises mostly minority actors. CNN said the producers amended the ad Wednesday to lowercase the phrase and to add the disclaimer “Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend.”
As of Thursday morning, the online ad had removed the offending phrase and specified, “Performers: 18+, All Ethnicities,” and the auditions page of the official website made no mention of ethnicity. Additionally, an auditions-page blurb at Backstage.com announcing Los Angeles casting calls reads, “Today’s top casting notices include several roles for ‘Hamilton’…” The linked page, however, originally posted Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., no longer mentions the show.
One civil-rights attorney called the specification illegal. “What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply?’ ” Randolph McLaughlin, co-chair of the civil rights practice group of the New York law firm Newman Ferrara, told CNN, adding, “You cannot advertise showing that you have preference for one racial group over another. … I don’t know how a producer in the 21st century can think this is OK.”
Regardless, the producers said in a statement earlier Thursday morning, “It is essential to the storytelling of ‘Hamilton’ that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors. This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’ that is legal.”
A representative for the show told WCBS/2 on Tuesday that the phrase “seeking non-white performers” had been approved by Actors Equity, which the general counsel for that Broadway union denied.