Lin-Manuel Miranda made a stop in Chicago to commemorate the official return of “Hamilton.”
Arts Correspondent Angel Idowu sat down with Miranda to get his take on why the show’s return to Chicago is so special.
“Hamilton” is running in Chicago through the end of the year. For information on tickets, visit broadwayinchicago.com.
Angel Idowu: I hear that we have a special character on “Sesame Street” named after you, Lamb Manuel?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Lamb Miranda, that’s right. Also my first job was an internship at WNET Channel 13, the PBS affiliate in New York City. I worked in educational services, I got everybody coffee. I alphabetized “Reading Rainbow.”
AI: How old were you?
LMM: Like 14.
AI: Would you say that was when you realized that you were interested in theater?
LMM: Way before that. I just, you know, I needed a summer gig and it was it was a great place to work and it was a really great environment. And yeah, we love the PBS vibes.
AI: Switching gears into “Hamilton,” before we get into the show, I know that you had a very long-standing relationship with the Obamas. In fact, I feel like they are kind of a pivotal moment, right, and the evolution when the world was first introduced to “Hamilton” and this idea that you had that wasn’t really making sense in the elevator pitch but by the end seemed to capture everyone.
AI: That’s a pretty good way of putting it. I was invited, this was also very new, we were very early in the Obama Administration. This is May of 2009, and they were doing the first evening of poetry and spoken word in the White House. I was supposed to do something from “In the Heights,” because that was the show that was running on Broadway at the time. It was my first Broadway show and they said unless you have something about the American experience. And the one song I'd written for “Hamilton,” I really hadn’t written anything else. I had big plans, but I just figured well damn if it doesn’t work in this room like where is it going to work?
So, I just figured this was kind of the perfect test audience. I laugh now at how brave I was to sing this piece that only my wife and Alex Lacamoire had ever heard in the East Room of the White House, but there we were and you can tell how nervous I am if you watch the video. And I was freaking out. I was debuting a song in front of the leader of the Free World.
I remember making the mistake of looking at him right in the eyes when it started. I said can’t do that. And I looked and I saw Michelle’s, I can’t look there either. It was actually Michelle’s mom who became my anchor. She was kind of looking at me like poor baby.
AI: How does it feel to have “Hamilton” back on the stage and specifically in Chicago being city of theater, of local theater specifically, this was one of the first stops when “Hamilton” really reached its peak and it seems really great that it’s back here now.
LMM: You know, and I would even go further than it wasn’t just our first stop. It was a Chicago company. And to watch, it was the second company we’d set up. It was the first time after the original company. They were all stars and it was such a thrill to watch Chicago embrace the show and embrace the actors in the show. You’d see Josh Henry and Miguel Cervantes at Cubs games. And they really became a part of the fabric of the town.
And I want that for this tour, this tour that is coming in is an incredible talented group. They’re coming from Alaska. They’ve been all over the country and I’m excited for Chicagoans to embrace them the way they embraced that original Chicago company.
I’m excited for them to sit down for a few months because they’ve been running around and I’m just, I’m really excited to also just support live theater in Chicago again, because you know, it’s struggling here. It’s struggling in New York. And I’m really, I’m really proud that we can bring the show here.
AI: What would you say to viewers that are not really tapped into local theater or understand the necessity of it, specifically in Chicago, why they should come and see the show.
LMM: Yeah, I think our two greatest theater ambassadors this summer have been Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, you know, you’ve taken the people you love to hear that music. It wasn’t because it was some music you hadn’t heard before. You have heard every album in the Eras Tour but to experience that in a roomful of people who love what you love and with your loved ones, whether it’s a first date or whether it’s with your mom. It’s really special and there’s nothing to duplicate it. And the same is true of “Hamilton.” I know there’s a whole generation who fell in love with “Hamilton” when it was streaming, when it was made available on streaming, and I’m excited for those folks who maybe didn’t see the first Chicago run to come see it because there’s really nothing like seeing it live.
AI: I’m one of those. I’ve actually been waiting for it to come back. I haven’t seen it stream because I needed to see it in the theater. So I’m so excited.
LMM: Oh that makes me so happy
Video: Miranda also discussed how to avoid burnout and what he is listening to now.