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‘Hamilton’ fans pack new Chicago exhibition as it opens to the public

Fans line up outside "Hamilton: The Exhibition" for the exhibit's opening day on Northerly Island. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Hundreds of “Hamilton” fans who braved rain and snow Saturday morning to the end of Northerly Island were greeted with a surprise that made the trek even sweeter.

Peeking his head through the window of a pink Stan’s Donuts food truck was the musical’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, handing out donuts to the first attendees of “Hamilton: The Exhibition.”

The Tony Award-winner was surrounded by awestruck fans as the 35,000-square-foot exhibition opened to the public a day after its ceremonial cutting-of-the-ribbon.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda on hand as ‘Hamilton: The Exhibition’ debuts in Chicago

Before heading inside, Miranda made a quick appearance with 9-year-old Macey Hensley, who became an internet sensation two years ago by naming every U.S. president. Producers of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” sent Macey to watch “Hamilton” in New York, and on Saturday, the talk show sent her to attend the exhibition in Chicago.

Lin-Manuel Miranda poses with his new pair of underwear given to him by Macey Hensley, who was sent to “Hamilton: The Exhibition” by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” | Nader Issa/Sun-Times
Lin-Manuel Miranda poses with his new pair of underwear given to him by Macey Hensley, who was sent to “Hamilton: The Exhibition” by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Among those following Miranda’s every move was former theater student Sydney Milligan, 27, who maintains a theater blog and is a big “Hamilton” fan.

Milligan returned Saturday to write about the exhibit’s opening day after she was on hand Friday for a sneak peek that she said exceeded her massive expectations.

“What really impressed me the most about it was the commitment to showing diversity,” Milligan said. “They amplified that with the exhibit by making sure they did not just focus on the history of the Schuyler sisters, or the founding fathers, or the old white dudes. They actually included information on Native Americans in the Revolutionary War and African American soldiers.

“They made a commitment to showing that America’s fabric is and has always been diverse from its founding,” she said.

The exhibition is housed inside a massive black and gold hangar-like steel structure — a temporary facility that’s taken several months and thousands of man hours to complete ahead of the public opening.

Fans line up for their turn to tour “Hamilton: The Exhibition” on its opening day in Chicago. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times
Fans line up for their turn to tour “Hamilton: The Exhibition” on its opening day in Chicago. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Jena Lombardi, a fan who came from Minnesota to visit the exhibit, said she showed up “obsessively early” with her friend for their 11 a.m. tour.

Lombardi, 35, has seen “Hamilton” a half-dozen times in New York, Chicago and on tour in Minnesota. She said he had “really high expectations” but still didn’t think she’d be let down.

“I’m expecting to be blown away when I walk through it,” Lombardi said. “This show has turned me into such a history junkie that I’m so excited for the deep dive into the actual people.”