Direct from Broadway to Brisbane, one of the world’s leading theatre and film composers, Lin-Manuel Miranda arrived down under to witness the Australian cast of his smash-hit musical creation HAMILTON perform for the very first time, currently playing at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until 23 April before it leaves for Auckland, New Zealand.
Lin-Manuel was ‘not throwing away his shot’ as he hit the ground running when he landed in the Sunshine State. He visited the much-loved children’s TV show Bluey at Ludo Studios – his family’s favourite show (he also voices a horse in the show – Major Tom). Lin enjoyed watching the Aussie cast perform in Hamilton whilst also surprising the audience by giving an onstage speech following the conclusion of the show.
The next day Lin-Manuel participated in a fan Q and A event with 2000 people hosted by ABC journalist, Leigh Sales (airing on ABC and iview on 18th March and repeated 21 March). He continued on to front the Brisbane media for a generous, in-depth press conference and the following day he visited the musical theatre students at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University all in just over 48 hours.
The lyrical genius praised the wonderful Australian cast, explaining to the Brisbane media that he arrived down-under as soon as he could. He was delayed due to pandemic restrictions and Disney and Netflix film projects he was working on.
“During 2020 I was writing music for the Disney film Encanto and editing Netflix’s tick, tick…boom adaptation. This has been the soonest I could come, and I made a promise to see the Australian Company while it was still in Australia.”
“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 [in the U.S] and our other Hamilton companies, [the hope] that theatre would come back.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, was in the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton and played the title character. Whilst new fans of the show have largely derived from the Disney+ release of the filmed Broadway production, witnessing Australia’s unique stamp of the hip-hop fusion musical LIVE on stage has been an utter joy for Miranda.
“The Australian cast are right there on the same level as the international casts of Hamilton. They are so fantastic, and I remember doing the casting virtually and seeing Jason Arrow’s (Alexander Hamilton) audition in April or May of 2020. So, the Australian cast were really stacking up against the Original Broadway Company [whilst editing the Disney+ film] in a very tangible way.”
“Sometimes [when casting] that background comes heavily in musical theatre and sometimes from a hip-hop discipline. What’s fun about our show is everyone kind of meets in the middle and we look for the best possible storytellers…”
Lin-Manuel touched on why this historic American Musical resonates with people outside the USA. Besides the poetically ingenious music, the show presents the relatable themes of legacy and resilience.
“…which stories get told and which don’t, depend on who survives us… people are complicated, there are no heroes or villains in this piece, there is just really flawed people that made a really flawed country…”
“I think that is the secret sauce of it. It starts off being this very specific history piece but it really invites you to think about the kind of legacy you’re leaving behind.”
Miranda commented on the incredible Australian and New Zealand company of Hamilton and how they have really made the show their own and included their unique cultural essence to the ground-breaking piece of art. The show about American history is different wherever you buy a ticket around the world.
“Australia was the first time I saw Haka moves in the ‘Battle of Yorktown. I looked up on the surround and I saw [Matu Ngaropo’s as George Washington] hand going like this. I thought man there’s some Haka flavour in this battle in 1781, which was very exciting.”
“The diversity that we found in Australia is very different and that history becomes absorbed into the crew of storytellers telling this particular story…”
“[Matu Ngaropo’s version of] ‘One Last Time’ made me cry and it was a joy getting to know him better after the show.”
Miranda explained how he loved getting to know the Australian company at post-show drinks and bonded over onstage mishaps and set malfunctions during the show, which every company of Hamilton around the world has experienced.
“I had a long conversation with a group of the actors last night about when the turntable doesn’t work, what happens? Sometimes the turntable doesn’t work, so we were sharing turntable horror stories, you know Philip [Hamilton’s son] has died but the turntable is not taking us away and variations thereof…”
“We are kind of satellite family members. So, we talked about that too, the [global friendships and] connections made across companies.”
The musical theatre mogul, who has recently written music for new Broadway musical ‘New York, New York’, reminisced about his Hamilton song writing process and one of the most emotional moments during the 6 year creation of the show.
“There’s several [songs or moments that gives me goosebumps]. It’s funny I always knew I was going to go on stage and thank everybody for coming [to Brisbane to see Hamilton] and I had a pretty nice speech planned, forgetting that I have to watch the show too. I am a mess during the last number because I remember how hard I cried writing it.”
“[I had] the [Ron] Chernow [Hamilton biography] book and all of the things Eliza [Hamilton’s wife] did in the remaining 50 years of her life and I would write one sentence and I would cry, then I would write another sentence and I would cry. I remember my wife who was not in show business being like, do you need water?”
“So, when I watch that [last] number [in the show], that [memory] comes back to me. The labour pains of having to write it and I know some people get misty-eyed at the end of the show, but they didn’t cry as hard as I did.”
Miranda is heavily influenced by hip-hop and rap artists to write his shows and incorporates that genre through his work in addition to musical theatre music. Some of these shows include his successful Tony-Award winning musical ‘In the Heights’ and incredible improv hip-hop show ‘Freestyle Love Supreme’, which he was in Australia for at the 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala.
Lin-Manuel knew Hamilton’s story was definitely rooted in a true hip-hop narrative as the Founding Father of America wrote his way out of terrible poverty in the Caribbean.
“There are just as many musical theatre references as there are hip-hop references. I wanted hip-hop fans to be like, ‘oh, he’s quoted Mobb Deep.’ Also Aaron Burr in the show says, ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught, if you talk you’re gonna get shot’, I wanted stuffy musical theatre fans to be like…oh Rodgers and Hammerstein oook [this is cool].
Going forward Lin-Manuel pointed out the challenging part of taking Hamilton the Musical to other countries is the fear that they wouldn’t understand the historical references. However, he mentioned that even Americans don’t know a whole lot about their own historical figures and how America gained independence.
“Obviously the success of the show here [in Australia] and in Hamburg [Germany] proves that this is a universal story despite its specifics. You’ve got the British cheering their own defeat at the Battle of Yorktown, that’s pretty wild.”
“We only changed 3 lines [in the UK]. These lines we also changed in the Australian production. They are just really niche New York things.”
“We changed [the] Weehawken [line] (Hamilton and Burr Dual location in New Jersey) because I remember asking Jamael that played Hamilton [in London], what do you think Weehawken is? He said, well, I think it’s like we are attacking, like we hawking. I said ok, I am changing that. I changed it to New Jersey.”
The incredible songwriter from Washington Heights, New York concluded the media conference talking about the importance of representation on stage and in mainstream media, as he wants diverse cultures reflected in all of his creations. It broadens the stories and reflects the world around us in his favourite artform.
“I really began writing ‘In the Heights’ out of a desire to write what was missing and represent my neighbourhood, which I didn’t see portrayed in mainstream media. The amazing side effect of that and what I realised with Hamilton is that I am trying to create opportunities in my shows.”
“We get to tell this story with all its messiness. It gets us new stories. That’s the other exciting part, to invite more people in the room is to invite more stories and invite new narratives and that’s really exciting.”
The fan Q and A with Leigh Sales was conducted on the stage of HAMILTON at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre, where the cast have been playing to rapturous audiences in the last leg of their Australian season, which must close on April 23, 2023.
The interview will broadcast exclusively on ABC TV and ABC iview on Saturday, March 18 at 6pm, and will be repeated the following Tuesday, 21 March on ABC TV at 10pm.
The Australian company is led by Jason Arrow as Alexander Hamilton, Martha Berhane as Eliza Hamilton, Callan Purcell as Aaron Burr, Akina Edmonds as Angelica Schuyler, Matu Ngaropo as George Washington, Victory Ndukwe as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Sami Afuni as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Wern Mak as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Elandrah Eramiha as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds and Brent Hill as King George.
They are joined by Claire Abaijah-Griffin, Kirrah Amosa, Kyla Bartholomeusz, Shewit Belay, Justin Bryant, Olivia Carniato, Celine Cleveland, Lachlan Dearing, Simon Fairweather, Alexander Ferguson, Keanu Gonzalez, Winston Hillyer, Indigo Hunt, Julian Kuo, Iosefa Laga’aia, Stefan Lagoulis, Ashton Lash, HaNy Lee, Zelia Rose, Emmy Saheki, Trevor Santos, Tainga Savage, Terrance Spencer, Dayton Tavares, Romina Villafranca and Zachary Webster completing the Australian company.
Until April 23
Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Cnr Grey and Melbourne St, South Brisbane
Tickets only available through qpac.com.au
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