Student gets Broadway’s attention with proposal


Rebekah Alvey

“Hamilton” has become a huge part of the American identity; people who may not be typical theater fans can recite the songs by heart.

Like most art forms, it holds multiple meanings to different people. For seniors Elijah Essa and Sarah Burnett, the musical will always be especially remembered.

In December 2016, Essa decided to propose to his girlfriend of nearly five years. He said it had always been in the back of his mind that he wanted to propose in a big way.

With intentions for a big proposal, Essa decided to gather friends of the couple and perform the songs “Aaron Burr, Sir” and “My Shot” from Hamilton on the stage at Van Meter Hall auditorium.

The performance consisted of Essa as Hamilton with about 24 friends playing other roles or dancing backup. Other main roles were performed by students Connor Brown, Jay Todd Richey, Allie Curry and Bailey Townsend.

Essa said he and Burnett had always been into musicals and had both been in theater in high school. As a couple, they had seen “Hamilton” performed in Chicago.

Practices for the proposal began in January, and the group met about once a week to perfect the routine. Essa said the whole thing came together smoothly.

Brown, who was in charge of putting the choreography together, said he pulled some of the moves and inspiration from a video of the actual performance of “My Shot,” while the rest was original. 

Brown said he had met the couple freshman year and became close to them through similar organizations like Honors Toppers.

Though he was initially shocked when Essa approached him with such an ambitious proposal, Brown said over time as things started to get done it became more realistic.

“I was really attached to the idea of something creative and big; it’s not something you hear about every day,” Brown said.

Towards the end of the performance, Essa made the decision to change some of the original lyrics as well.

Essa said during Hamilton’s solo, some lyrics are about death, which he didn’t want to sing about in his proposal, so he thought it was the perfect opportunity to make the song more personal.

A few weeks after the video was put up on Youtube, Essa’s proposal began to gain attention from a wider audience.

He said they had about 35,000 to 40,000 views for the video. It was quickly picked up by and Inside Edition.

After the video had hit these sites, it reached the official Twitter account for the production. Hamilton’s Twitter account shared the video with a quote from the musical: “Then you walked in and my heart went boom.”

Essa said the original intent of making and sharing the video was to show family and friends, so he couldn’t believe the other attention it was receiving.

“I didn’t see it coming at all,” Essa said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]