Stage Spotlight: Lin-Manuel Miranda

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As Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical Hamilton premieres in Chicago, it seems like the perfect time to look at the man behind this incredible record-setting musical. Though Hamilton has taken the musical theatre world by storm, Miranda has equally proved himself as a sensation, as an incredible writer, lyricist and performer.

Miranda began work on his first musical, In the Heights, as a student at Wesleyan University, Connecticut in 2002. After a successful Off-Broadway stint, in 2008 it moved to Broadway, where it went on to win two Tony awards, for Best Musical and Best Original Score. Miranda was also nominated for the Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical. In the Heights tells the story of a variety of characters living in Washington Heights in New York, a largely Dominican-American neighbourhood. In 2015, it opened in the West End, and is currently booking until January 2017.

It was in 2008 that Miranda read Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Immediately gripped by the story, he wrote a rap about Hamilton and performed it at the ‘White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word’ in 2009, in front of Barack and Michelle Obama. Over the next five years Miranda wrote more songs about Hamilton’s life, performing them as part of the Hamilton Mixtape.

The musical Hamilton, consisting of songs from the mixtape, premiered off-Broadway in January 2015 at The Public Theatre, with Miranda starring as Alexander Hamilton. It was immediately a hit, receiving positive reviews. The musical, featuring mainly hip-hop and rap, tells the story of Alexander Hamilton from his arrival in New York City in 1772 as a Caribbean immigrant , through his involvement in the American Revolution, and his part in establishing America’s government and banking system. The use of black and Hispanic actors to portray Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other Caucasian historical figures has been widely praised. In an interview with Edward Delman, Miranda explains that Hamilton is “a story about America then, told by America now.”

Hamilton transferred to Broadway in August 2015, resulting in multimillion-dollar advanced ticket sales and fervent critical reviews. At the 2016 Tony Awards, it received a record breaking 16 nominations in 13 categories. The cast performed three songs from Hamilton at the ceremony, including the closing number, and the use of muskets for one of the performances was dropped in respect for the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Miranda’s speech addressed the shooting and included a sonnet he had written, featuring the passage “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; Cannot be killed or swept aside”.

Miranda ended his stint playing Hamilton on 9th July 2016, but vowed to return to the role in the future. He was replaced by previous alternate Javier Muñoz. The official companion album to Hamilton was released on 25th September 2015, featuring the original Broadway cast, including Miranda, and was the highest selling Broadway cast album of 2015. According to Miranda, he was editing and rewriting the songs right up until the day before the album was recorded.

In addition to his work in theatre, Miranda has been involved in film and television. The upcoming Disney movie Moana will feature music from Miranda, and at the invitation of director J.J. Abrams he worked on music for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His television credits include Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother.

It is clear that Miranda is an incredibly talented actor, writer, composer, and singer, and he has won numerous accolades for his work, including three Tony awards, a Grammy award, a Pulitzer prize, and an Emmy. Doubtless, Miranda will continue his career with gusto, and, after the success of Hamilton, is sure to be in the spotlight for a long time yet.

Did You Know?

  • Before his Broadway success, he worked as a High School English teacher.
  • The price for a single ticket for Miranda’s last performance in Hamilton reached $10,000.
  • He loves The Little Mermaid.
  • In college he created a hip-hop group called “Freestyle Love Supreme”.

Performance to watch: Miranda’s performance of The Hamilton Mixtape at The White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009.

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