There are not many awards he hasn’t won for his groundbreaking musical theatre work, and now Lin-Manuel Miranda has shown he keeps his promises too.
The Tony, Grammy, Emmy, Olivier and Pulitzer Prize winning creator came to Brisbane this weekend, to watch the Australian company perform Hamilton—his worldwide musical juggernaut that combines jazz, hip hop, R&B and Broadway musical styles to tell the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton.
He also made a visit to the Brisbane Bluey studios for a guest appearance on the Australian children’s show phenomena, and gave a press conference for selected media while in town.
To say I was excited when I got the press conference invitation with a day’s notice is an understatement. I was not throwing away my shot on this one.
Now I haven’t done this on Streets of Your Town before, but this episode I will play the entire 20 minute press conference, because it’s so unusual to have this sort of access to someone who is essentially musical theatre royalty with a worldwide following.
You’ll get a behind-the-scenes insight into how these press conferences work. When you listen to the podcast you’ll hear that I’ve boosted the audio of the journalists’ questions as much as I can so you can get some context for his answers. Lin-Manuel Miranda was delightfully frank giving insights into why he came to Australia now, and the importance of First Nations/Indigenous voices in this Australian cast which make it distinct to other Hamilton productions.
I was in the front row for you all my Wandering Journo tribe, and you’ll be chuffed to know I got a question into the media throng as well, which you can hear in the press conference audio.
And as Lin-Manuel Miranda himself explains, while COVID threw his initial plans to visit the Australian cast into chaos, even forcing their auditions for Hamilton onto zoom, he was not walking away from his commitment to meet the cast and see the show as soon as he could.
“Honestly the timing was as soon as I could make it work,” Miranda said.
“I think you guys know there was a moment during the Global Pandemic when Australia was the only company of Hamilton running in the world, and that was a real beacon of hope to our actors and our other companies that theatre would come back and we would be able to one day hopefully put on the show again.
“But it was also harder to visit. You had a 14-day quarantine and you had to really commit a kind of time I didn’t yet have. Because during 2020 I was writing Encanto and editing Tick, Tick, Boom. And so this has really been the soonest I can see, and I made a promise to see the Australian company while it was still in Australia and they’re leaving soon. So I came as soon as I could.”
I asked Lin-Manuel Miranda about the significance of having a First Nations Indigenous person in one of the lead roles for Hamilton on the Brisbane run. In fact you’ll hopefully remember we did a story with the man in question Callan Purcell just a few weeks ago.
Miranda said he was deeply moved by Callan Purcell’s interpretation.
“I think that what I love about the productions that have gone beyond the United States is that we are always looking for as diverse a crew of storytellers to tell the story as possible,” he said.
“The diversity that we find in Australia is different from anywhere else. And so that history then becomes absorbed into the crew of storytellers telling this particular story.
“And he’s [Callan Purcell] just so fantastic. His One Last Time made me cry, and it was a joy getting to know him a little better after the show. So that’s also the fun of it. It’s always just trying to find the best storytellers we can.”
Miranda, who has Puerto Rican heritage, also gave insight into his songwriting process and how his vision for musicals has evolved.
“I began writing musicals because I didn’t see roles for myself in musicals. I was in love with this art form. And at the same time, I knew I didn’t dance well enough to play Bernardo or one of the Sharks. That’s kind of all there was for Puerto Rican guys in musical theatre,” he said.
“It’s just what there was, what existed. And so I really began writing my first show In The Heights out of this sort of desire to write what was missing and also represent my neighbourhood in a way that I didn’t see it portrayed in mainstream media. Never, I mean to speak nothing of musical theatre.
“And so the amazing side effect of that, and with Hamilton, I realise that I’m trying to create opportunities in my shows. The concept of this piece was we are living 200-some odd years past when this story was told. And the country looks very different than it did then. And so we get to tell the story with all its messiness. We get to tell it too. So it’s a prerequisite for my being here. It’s also it just gets us new stories. That’s the other exciting part of it, is that like to invite more people into the room means to invite new stories and to invite new narratives, and that’s really exciting.”