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I'm not going to call Lin-Manuel Miranda a genius. Why? Because he would never refer to himself as one. However I will say that no one has been more instrumental to the future of musical theatre than Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Broadway's greatest will not only be those who raise the bar in terms of its quality but those who break barriers and bring musical theatre to new audiences, which in turn, will inspire a whole generation of performers. If you don't think that describes Lin-Manuel Miranda's work, then you're kidding yourself.
In 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda dropped In The Heights on us. Not since RENT had there been such a brutally honest portrayal of the socioeconomics and struggle of a demographic on Broadway. But the Broadway production achievements of In The Heights pale in comparison to the impact its made far from 42nd Street.
It has become one of the most performed musical by high schools since the rights because available. In fact, according to R&H's website, nine high schools are performing it as I'm writing this column tonight.
But more importantly, it's the types of high schools and students that are getting inspired about musical theatre because of Lin-Manuel Miranda's work. Students of color don't have to play Caucasian roles. They can play characters like Usnavi, Vanessa, Benny or Abuela Claudia with pride and not as stereotypes or misconceptions. Believe me when I say, as an Asian American, we're still waiting for our In The Heights.
Last year, the Junior Players of Dallas, TX put together a production made up of 23 actors from 11 different schools who had axed their drama programs due to budget cuts. The musical they chose to perform? In The Heights Why?
“It hits home, being a first-generation Latino,” says Jeremy Coca(Piragua Guy), who has one parent who hails from Mexico and another from Colombia. When he first saw an In the Heights scene performed on the 2008 Tony Awards telecast, he was moved by how it portrayed the immigrant community’s struggle to achieve the American dream...His love for the show deepened when he saw its mix of hip-hop, rap, jazz, pop and salsa." ~ The Dallas Morning News
With just one show under his belt, Lin-Manuel Miranda put himself in the same realm as Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson; trail blazing artists who brought new audiences to Broadway seats. He could have stopped with one show and remained on this list. But he didn't.
Lin-Manuel Miranda didn't need to create Hamilton to cement his contribution to musical theatre, but we're glad he did. Everything we've been hearing, it's brilliant. If In The Heights brought the truth of Washington Heights to the masses and celebrated Latino culture, think about what Hamilton could do for the same audiences. Audiences who wouldn't know Alexander Hamilton from his picture or name. But show them a hip hop infused musical about a man who was shot to death by the Vice President of the United States? Now you're onto something. Now if he could only write a show about math and science, I'd say give him the Nobel prize.
While it won't qualify for the Tony Awards this year, it's a shoo in for next year. I can already see producers moving production dates back to stay away from competing with it.
As I said before, Lin-Manuel Miranda isn't a genius, because he has the humility to never refer to himself as such. But he's musical theatre most important figure of the 21st Century. No pressure right?