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Lin-Manuel Miranda on the stage in Hamilton in 2016, "the tired-est, most exhausted version of me."
From left, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton and Leslie Odom, Jr., as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.
With a resume that includes the stage musicals In the Heights , Bring It On and of course Hamilton , and work on the movies Moana and Mary Poppins Returns , it’s fair to say that composer Lin-Manuel Miranda lives at the corner of cinema and live theatre. So what does a man like that do when the coronavirus has all but closed down both production and consumption in both these industries?
For the first few weeks under lockdown, he says, not a lot.
“It was a month of just figuring out this new reality,” Miranda says from his home just off the Henry Hudson Parkway at the north end of Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and five-year-old son. “Figuring out what school looked like for my child. Figuring out what leaving our apartment looked like and what we needed to get through a day.”
And he’s not having any of that “Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine” crap. “Let’s just acknowledge that the f—ing plague was ravaging town! So maybe he didn’t write it, like, the day after the playhouses closed.”
No one had this seat in the house! It’s a God’s eye view of Hamilton.
He continues: “We need time to acknowledge these new realities and make room for them in our hearts and in our guts. And I’m just now beginning to start writing again, able to carve enough time away from the social media timeline and the evening news to make something new.”
So what’s new? “It’s plenty of new things,” he says happily. “I’m still working on an animated movie for Sony called Vevo . I had some songs due for that and I got a lot of work done in this time. That’s supposed to come out in June of next year.”
He grins slyly. “And I have a new piece that I’m writing that I can’t tell you about, ’cause I don’t have the rights for it yet. But it’s something that I think will eventually be a theatre piece, and it’s exciting to carve out space for something new, because all these other projects are on hold.”
Are they ever. I’m talking to Miranda about the release of Hamilton on Disney+ on July 3. Recorded over several live performances in 2016, it was originally planned to hit cinemas in October 2021. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, it’s coming out more than a year early on the streaming service.
Meanwhile, the filmed version of his musical In the Heights has been pushed to June 18, 2021, from its pre-pandemic opening date of June 26, 2020. And Miranda’s directing debut, an adaptation of the musical Tick, Tick … Boom! , was shut down just 10 days into production.
He can’t wait to get back to that. “ Tick, Tick … Boom! is very close to my heart,” he says. “Jonathan Larson [its author] is one of the reasons I started writing musicals instead of just loving them. And we got 10 days of great footage … so I’m looking forward to plunging into that again when it’s safe.”
As far as Hamilton goes, I ask Miranda what it’s like to look back on his performance in the original Broadway production, four years ago. A lot has changed — in his life, in American politics, in the world.
“I’ll be honest,” he says. “I don’t watch myself when I watch it. When I look at myself I see that’s the tired-est, most exhausted version of me, and he’s acting on his day off from performing the show seven times a week.”
To capture footage for the film, the production shot two performances in front of an audience, then spent a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning getting close-ups, dollies and Steadicam shots. Then it was back to a regular live performance on Tuesday night.
On the plus side, he notes: “The Hamilton movie is the best rehearsed cast in the history of cinema. Every actor in that movie has done those scenes hundreds and hundreds of times in front of a live audience.”
And he’s full of praise for Thomas Kail, the director of both the Broadway run of Hamilton and this filmed version. “He’s been editing this movie for the past three years, on and off between other projects,” says Miranda.
“The tagline, I should tell you, is: Everyone’s got the best seat in the house.” He pauses a moment for effect. “No one had this seat in the house! It’s a God’s eye view of Hamilton . It’s Hamilton from overhead, and from behind the proscenium, and it’s truly a movie on its own terms, and so I’m really grateful it exists.”
And he’s happy to talk about it, even now, in spite of all the other, newer things on the go. “ Hamilton ’s the first line of my obituary,” he says with a shrug and a smile. “Doesn’t matter what I do from here on out. And I choose to take that truth as a freeing concept.”
Hamilton is available on Disney+ on July 3.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020