EXCLUSIVE: With producers hollering huzzahs after the last week’s final workshop presentations of Lin-Manual Miranda‘s Hamilton, the race for next year’s Tony best musical is underway three weeks before this year’s CBS Tonycast. “This was the best workshop of any musical I’ve ever attended,” one mega producer – who’s not producing the show — told me after seeing Friday’s final outing of the monthlong development and buzz-inciting gig. The Broadway-bound musical formerly known as The Hamilton Mixtape, by the prodigiously talented Miranda (best known for the four-Tony winning 2008 In The Heights) — will kick off next January at the nonprofit Public Theater. But with enhancement funds from three top Broadway producers — Jeffrey Seller (Rent), Roy Furman (current Tony nominees After Midnight and Mothers and Sons, among many others) and Sander Jacobs (In The Heights) — you can count on a fast Broadway transfer.
“I’m not even sure why they need the off-Broadway tryout,” another insider commented after one of the other presentations, which were held at the 52nd Street Project and featured full cast and orchestra under the musical direction of Alex Lacamoire. Thomas Kail is directing, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler.
Hamilton has been in the works for at least five years, since Miranda introduced the opening number, a rap song describing the life of first U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, at a 2009 White House concert for President Obama, his wife, and guests. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, Miranda was taken by Hamilton’s personal history: He was an orphan from the Caribbean island of Nevis, hustled his way into King’s College (now Columbia University), became one of the Founding Fathers often at odds with Washington, Jefferson, et al, and was killed by rival Aaron Burr in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in 1804. Miranda plays the title role and, well let’s say non-traditional casting prevails.
The show was further developed last summer at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater festival. The workshop, with heavy involvement from the Nederlander Organization, ran from April 7 through May 11. Attendees included Public Theater chief Oskar Eustis and Nederlander scion James L. Nederlander. The show is slated to begin performances at the Public next January 20 and run through February 22.
As a sideline, Miranda has been instrumental in turning Manhattan’s last surviving film cathedral, the Loewe’s Wonder Theatre — aka the United Palace Theatre, at 175th Street and Broadway — into a Washington Heights cultural center. He was most recently seen in a gorilla suit greeting patrons to a free screening of the original King Kong that was followed by an onstage chat, funded by the motion picture acad, with Animal House helmer John Landis.
As for Hamilton, Miranda unveiled songs from the score in 2012 at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, where New York Times critic called it “sensational…what it is is hot.”