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date: 25 July 2021

Miranda, Lin-Manuelfree

Miranda, Lin-Manuelfree

  • Elizabeth Craft

(b New York, Jan 16, 1980). American composer, lyricist, playwright, performer, and producer. Miranda was raised in northern Manhattan and attended the Hunter College public selective-admission elementary and high schools. His parents are from Puerto Rico; growing up, he spent time there each summer.

Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Pantages Theatre on August 16, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Miranda studied theatre at Wesleyan College (BA 2002), where he wrote an early version of his first hit musical In the Heights. After graduating, he teamed up with director Thomas Kail, a fellow Wesleyan alumnus, and the show received several readings and an off-Broadway production before its première on Broadway in 2008. Miranda wrote the music and lyrics, working with bookwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, and he starred in the original cast. Running for over 1000 performances and garnering awards including four Tonys, notably for Best Musical and Best Original Score, the show established Miranda as a major presence on Broadway. Many of the show’s creative team and cast members became his regular collaborators.

Upon leaving the In the Heights cast, Miranda contributed Spanish translations to a partially-bilingual Broadway revival of West Side Story (2009), directed by the playwright Arthur Laurents, and wrote two songs for a revised version of Working. He co-wrote music and lyrics for Bring It On: the Musical, which had an Atlanta, GA production, national tour, and limited 2012 Broadway run. He also performed in the Encores! series productions of Merrily We Roll Along (2012) and tick, tick… BOOM! (2014).

Miranda’s next Broadway show, Hamilton: an American Musical, became a cultural phenomenon and made him a household name. Miranda introduced a song from the nascent project, which was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, at a White House Poetry Jam hosted by President and Michelle Obama in 2009. He developed the work over the next several years in collaboration with the director Thomas Kail, the orchestrator and arranger Alex Lacamoire, and, eventually, the choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. Hamilton opened on Broadway in August 2015 after a smash off-Broadway run at the Public Theatre. Arguably the first successful hip-hop musical, Hamilton is also remarkable for its casting: actors of colour appear in almost every leading role, playing white historical figures. Miranda performed the title role throughout the show’s development and in the original Broadway cast.

Hamilton has received a slew of awards, including 11 Tonys (from a record-breaking 16 nominations) and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2015, Miranda won a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ grant, and in 2018, Miranda, Kail, Blankenbuehler, and Lacamoire received Kennedy Center Honors for their work on the show. Hamilton’s cast album, produced in conjunction with Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots, was the first cast recording to reach #1 on Billboard’s rap chart and became the basis for The Hamilton Mixtape, a spin-off album performed by R&B, pop, and hip-hop artists. From 2016 to 2019, a Chicago production, a West End production, and three national tours were launched, one of which included a brief run in Puerto Rico with Miranda reprising his lead role. The musical also gave rise to the documentary Hamilton’s America (2016) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute Hamilton Education Program.

In 2019, Miranda’s hip-hop improv troupe Freestyle Love Supreme, which first began performing in 2003, opened a show on Broadway; the group also inspired a 2014 television miniseries and 2020 documentary.

Miranda has done extensive work for television and film as a composer, lyricist, actor, and producer. He co-wrote songs for the Disney animated musical Moana (2016). He has also contributed numbers to the children’s shows The Electric Company and Sesame Street, Star Wars VII and IX, and two Tony Awards ceremonies, winning a 2014 Emmy Award, along with Tom Kitt, for ‘Bigger’. He co-starred in Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and his television appearances include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Saturday Night Live, and His Dark Materials. Since Hamilton, Miranda has served as a producer or executive producer on several Hollywood projects, including the miniseries Fosse/Verdon and the film adaptation of In the Heights (expected 2021), in which he also plays a role.

Perhaps best known for bringing hip-hop to Broadway, Miranda is well versed in both genres and cites influences ranging from Jonathan Larson and Stephen Sondheim to Biggie and Big Pun. He grew up listening to Latin music as well and describes the Latin pop ‘boom’ of the late 1990s as one impetus for In the Heights. Even as Miranda’s shows break new ground stylistically, they are structurally indebted to earlier musicals: he has spoken, for example, of In the Heights’s formal connections to Fiddler on the Roof and Hamilton’s to Jesus Christ Superstar. Intertextual references – common in both hip-hop and musical theatre – pervade Miranda’s songs. ‘My Shot’ from Hamilton, for instance, quotes lines from both Mobb Deep and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The opening number of In the Heights includes a prominent musical and lyrical quotation of the jazz standard Take the ‘A’ Train, and a portion of ‘Sunrise’ is modelled on a Puerto Rican children’s song. While themes in Miranda’s works are varied, immigration and race are addressed frequently, and his shows offer a host of roles designated for minority actors. For these reasons, and given Miranda’s status as a Latino American and his advocacy work offstage, the musicals and their songs have taken on a sociopolitical valence for many fans.

Miranda’s celebrity is bolstered by his active social media presence, fan outreach efforts, and support of humanitarian and political causes, including Puerto Rican debt relief and post-Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Works

(selective list of creative work as writer and composer)

Musicals

Unless otherwise noted, dates are those of first Broadway performances and Miranda wrote the music, lyrics, and book. Select collaborators are listed in parentheses.

In the Heights (Q.A. Hudes, arr. and orch. A. Lacamoire and B. Sherman, dir. T. Kail, choreog. A. Blankenbuehler), 2008, film expected 2021

Spanish translations for the revival of West Side Story (1957, L. Bernstein, lyrics S. Sondheim, book A. Laurents; revival dir. Laurents), 2009

‘Delivery’ and ‘A Very Good Day’ for the revised version of Working (1978, S. Schwartz, after S. Terkel; revised version adapted by S. Schwartz and N. Faso with G. Greenberg), 2011; Chicago, Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 2011 

Bring It On: the Musical (music T. Kitt and Miranda, lyrics A. Green and Miranda, book J. Whitty, arr. and orch. Kitt and A. Lacamoire, dir. and choreog. A. Blankenbuehler), 2012

21 Chump Street: the Musical (one-act musical, orch. M. Starobin, dir. M. Mayer, choreog. L. Latarro), 2014, Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of This American Life: Live at BAM 

Hamilton: an American Musical (arr. and orch. A. Lacamoire and Miranda, dir. T. Kail, choreog. A. Blankenbuehler), 2015

Freestyle Love Supreme (conceived by A. Veneziale, created by T. Kail, Miranda, and Veneziale, dir. Kail), 2019, TV miniseries 2014

Film and Television

Numbers for ‘The [New] Electric Company’, 2009–10

Numbers for ‘Sesame Street’ (incl. music for Rhymes with Mando), 2011–

2011 Tony Rap Up (Closing Theme)’ (with T. Kail, perf. N.P. Harris), The 65th Annual Tony Awards, 2011

‘Bigger’ (opening number, with T. Kitt) and special lyrics (with T. Kail) for closing number (‘Empire State of Mind’), The 67th Annual Tony Awards, 2013

‘Dobra Doompa’ and ‘Jabba Flow’ (with J.J. Abrams), Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, 2015

Opening monologue (remixed version of ‘My Shot’, with S. Seidell and J. Beiler) for ‘Saturday Night Live’, Oct 8, 2016

Moana (songs by Miranda, O. Foa’i, and M. Mancina; score by Mancina), 2016

‘Lido Hey’ (with J.J. Abrams), Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, 2019

Albums, Miscellaneous Songs, and Other Works

BTW, Write Back (perf. A. Burns on A Deeper Shade of Red), 2007

Legally Brown: the Search for the Next Piragua Guy, web series, 2008

Love Make the World Go Round (with J. Lopez and others), 2016

The Hamilton Mixtape (with various artists), 2016

Almost Like Praying (featuring Artists for Puerto Rico), 2017, and Almost Like Praying (Salsa Remix), 2018

Fearless (perf. M. Gonzalez on Fearless), 2017

Intro ADN/DNA (with Residente and J. ‘Trooko’ Peñalva, on Residente), 2017

Hamildrops (series of singles, incl. Ben Franklin’s Song (with the Decemberists); Found/Tonight (co-written with B. Pasek and J. Paul, arr. and orch. A. Lacamoire, perf. with B. Platt); A Forgotten Spot (Olvidado) (with various artists); Cheering for Me Now (co-written with J. Kander), and others), 2017–18

Rufio (with U. Ambudkar, D. Basco, and others), 2018

Writings

(selective list)

  • ‘Pursuing the Muse against the Clock’, New York Times (June 22, 2014)
  • with J. McCarter: Hamilton: the Revolution; Being the Complete Libretto of the Broadway Musical with a True Account of its Creation, and Concise Remarks on Hip-Hop, the Power of Stories, and the New America (New York, 2016)
  • ‘Give Puerto Rico its Chance to Thrive’, New York Times (March 28, 2016)
  • ‘Stop the Bots from Killing Broadway’, New York Times (June 7, 2016)
  • with illustrator J. Sun: Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me and You (New York, 2018)
  • ‘Lin-Manuel Miranda’, American like me: Reflections on Life between Cultures, ed. A. Ferrera and E.C. Dumont (New York, 2018)
  • ‘The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump’, Atlantic (Dec 2019)

Bibliography

  • P. Bozymowski: In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams, ‘Great Performances’ (May 27, 2009) [PBS documentary]
  • Hamilton’s America, ‘Great Performances’ (2016) [PBS documentary]
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda on Disney, Mixtapes and Why He won’t try to Top ‘Hamilton’, ‘Fresh Air’ (Jan 3, 2017) [NPR interview], https://www.npr.org/2017/01/03/507470975/lin-manuel-miranda-on-disney-mixtapes-and-why-he-wont-try-to-top-hamilton.
  • B.E. Herrera: ‘Miranda’s Manifesto’, Theatre, 47/2 (2017), 23–33
  • E.L. Wollman: A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical (London, 2017)
  • C.H. Garrett, ed.: ‘Special Forum on Hamilton’, American Music, 36/4 (2018) [Hamilton issue]
  • J. Hillman-McCord: ‘Lin-Manuel Miranda: Digital Age Diva’, Studies in Musical Theatre, 12/1 (2018), 109–22
  • P.C. Kunze, ed.: ‘Hamilton as Cultural Phenomenon’, Studies in Musical Theatre, 12/2 (2018) [Hamilton issue]
  • E.T. Craft: ‘Can We “Leave Behind the World We Know”? Exploring Race and Ethnicity in the Musicals of Lin-Manuel Miranda’, The Routledge Companion to the Contemporary Musical, ed. J. Sternfeld and E.L. Wollman (New York, 2019), 216–25