Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast during a performance of "Hamilton" in New York.
SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This file photo taken on March 14, 2016 shows Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Broadway show, "Hamilton," about the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, attends a workshop with students in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The musical phenomenon "Hamilton", inspired by the life of a hero of the independence of the United States Alexander Hamilton, was named May 3, 2016 in 16 categories of Tony Awards, a new Broadway record. The show written by Lin-Manuel Miranda --who has written the dialogues and composed the music and lyrics of chansons-- dethroned what was previously the gold standard, namely the musical "The Producers" by Mel Brooks named 15 times in 2001, as "Billy Elliot" in 2009. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lin-Manuel Miranda made his first White House appearance in November 2009, at a performance billed as an evening of poetry and music, where he explained he was working on a concept album about “a person I think embodies hip-hop, treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton.”
Flash forward to Tuesday, when the creator of the megahit Broadway musical “Hamilton” added a record-setting 16 Tony Award nominations to his MacArthur Genius Grant, Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Grammy Award.
Mr. Miranda, like most Americans, knew two things about Alexander Hamilton when, by chance, he picked up the biography by Ron Chernow at an airport. He knew he was the face on the $10 bill and that he had been killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr. The son of Puerto Rican emigrants, Mr. Miranda saw someone “young, scrappy and hungry” in the ambitious, impoverished immigrant Hamilton, who grew up to be a revolutionary hero, a scholar and a Founding Father.
To create “Hamilton,” Mr. Miranda started a Broadway revolution of his own. With his creative team from the Tony-winning “In the Heights,” he reinvented the musical as a rap-pop mix of rapid-fire, empowering lyrics and recast America’s Founding Fathers as a diverse cast of races and ethnicities.
The reaction has been ecstatic. Last week’s Broadway grosses found the musical, which debuted at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre on Aug. 6 of last year, playing to more than 101 percent of capacity.
The impact of “Hamilton” has given Mr. Miranda a voice far beyond the entertainment world, on topics from keeping his hero, Alexander Hamilton, as the face of the $10 bill to addressing Congress about helping Puerto Rico dig out of its financial crisis and offering “Hamilton’ tickets — even a personal appearance at Speaker Paul Ryan’s home — if that would help.
After a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew last month, Mr. Miranda tweeted, “I talked to @USTreasury about this on Monday. Sec. Lew told me ‘you’re going to be very happy.’ #wegetthejobdone.” Instead of dropping Hamilton, President Andrew Jackson lost his place on the $20, to Harriet Tubman.
On Tuesday, Renee Elise Goldsberry, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, was nominated for a Tony for her role as Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton.” She is one of seven acting nominees from the show and, as a songwriter herself, had some ideas of why Mr. Miranda’s work has touched a nerve.
“It works so well to have a songwriter who is also such a great rapper,” Ms. Goldsberry said in an interview last year. “There’s no pandering and no laziness, because the musical phrasing is so great. And also, in terms of the dramatist that [Mr. Miranda] is, his understanding of story and character, everything works so well in his writing. And it’s all so simple — and the simple things are the most powerful.”
The release of the cast album in October further grew the fan base, with Google revealing tens of thousands of examples of “kids sing Hamilton.” The recording that was produced by The Roots debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, the highest debut for a cast recording since 1963, and No. 3 among rap albums.
If you are not already holding a ticket for ”Hamilton” on Broadway, good luck getting there. On Tuesday, Ticketmaster was showing only resale tickets available through Jan. 29, 2017, with only three tickets available that day, with a going rate of $740 each. Chris Matcovich, vice president of data and communications for aggregator TiqIQ.com, told CNBC.com that “The Book of Mormon” at its Broadway peak could demand $600-$800 for secondary-market tickets. He put the overall average for “Hamilton” at $1,200.
You might want to wait until the show comes to you — a touring version launches in Chicago in September.
Mr. Miranda does not live by “Hamilton” alone these days. Among his future projects are the role of Jack the lamplighter in “Mary Poppins,” to be directed by Oscar-nominee Rob Marshall, who grew up in Pittsburgh. He’s also at work on the score for the Disney animated film “Moana,” about a young woman determined to finish her ancestors’ quest.
If it seems that Mr. Miranda is on a bit of a roll, wait, there’s more.
Among the many celebrity visitors to “Hamilton” was J.J. Abrams, while the director was still at work on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Composer John Williams had told the director that he didn’t want to create the cantina music this time around, and Mr. Miranda said he would love to — and of course, he did.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.