Who Is Lin-Manuel Miranda?
Lin-Manuel Miranda developed a devotion to musical theater and hip-hop before attending Wesleyan University. He wrote and starred in the Tony-winning 2008 musical In the Heights before working on additional Broadway productions and making screen appearances. Inspired by reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda eventually developed the musical Hamilton, a groundbreaking work that tells the story of the U.S. Founding Father with hip-hop/R&B musical forms and a black and Latino cast. With Miranda in the titular role, the production was a phenomenal success commercially and critically, winning the Pulitzer Prize and 11 Tony Awards in 2016. Miranda also scored a Grammy Award and an Oscar nomination for composing the song "How Far I'll Go" from the 2016 animated film Moana and starred in 2018's Mary Poppins Returns.
Early Life and Education
Miranda was born on January 16, 1980, in New York City, the son of Puerto Rican parents. His clinical psychologist mother, Luz Towns-Miranda, and his political consultant father, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., settled in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan.
Miranda and his sister grew up in a music-oriented family — both siblings took piano lessons and were encouraged by parents who loved the music of Broadway (Luis particularly adores the show The Unsinkable Molly Brown). While the Mirandas weren’t able to routinely see live performances, they were nonetheless able to listen to cast recordings.
Exposed to a wide range of musical genres while growing up, Miranda also developed a love of hip-hop, including the music of the Beastie Boys, Boogie Down Productions and Eric B. & Rakim. During his pre-teen and teenage years, Miranda performed in student stage productions while he attended Hunter College’s elementary and high schools. He went on to major in theater studies at Wesleyan University. After graduation, he worked as a high school English teacher for a time.
'In the Heights'
While at Wesleyan, Miranda started developing the musical that would become In the Heights. With Miranda starring in the production and writing the show’s music and lyrics, In the Heights was set in Washington Heights, featuring Latin sounds interwoven with more standard show tune fare. The musical debuted in 2008 and was a hit, running for almost two years and winning four Tony Awards, including the prize for best musical.
Miranda continued to be a force on Broadway, doing translation work for a 2009 revival of West Side Story and contributing music and lyrics to 2012’s Bring It On: The Musical. The performer also did screen work: He appeared on various TV programs including The Sopranos, How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family as well as in the films The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) and 200 Cartas (2013). And in a perfect fusion of career interests, Miranda won an Emmy in 2014 with Tom Kitt for their song “Bigger” from the 67th Annual Tony Awards telecast.
While on vacation in 2008, Miranda picked up the 2004 Ron Chernow book Alexander Hamilton, an acclaimed biography of America’s first secretary of the treasury. Having already developed an interest in the historical figure, Miranda was inspired to create a full-length work chronicling Hamilton’s life.
He first presented a song from the future show in 2009, at the White House's first-ever Evening of Poetry & Spoken Word. The musical was also part of Lincoln Center Theater’s 2012 American Songbook Series and the New York Stage and Film’s 2013 Powerhouse Theatre Season at Vassar College. Hamilton eventually debuted at the Public Theater in early 2015, and just months later hit Broadway, racking up monumental advance ticket sales. That same year he was also honored with a MacArthur Foundation Award.
With Miranda in the titular role, the show documents some of the prominent historical events associated with Hamilton, from his high-profile sex scandal to his life-ending duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton has garnered wide acclaim for its unique sensibilities—relying on a black and Latino cast with hip-hop/R&B sounds in a stage musical format to tell the story of this U.S. Founding Father. The Broadway musical has become a must-see event, not only for theater fans but also for scores of famous figures, including President Barack Obama and musical icon Stephen Sondheim.
In April 2016, Hamilton won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and in May, the musical set a new record when it was nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history. The production ultimately received 11 Tonys—just one short of the record-setting 12 wins had by The Producers. Hamilton counted among its wins the prizes for best musical and best direction, with Miranda himself receiving two Tonys in the categories of original score and book. During his acceptance speech for best score, Miranda recited a sonnet that was dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida gay club, with the performer chanting, "Love is love is love..."
Miranda has also won two Grammys for the cast recordings of In the Heights and Hamilton and an Emmy Award for the music and lyrics at the 2013 Tony Awards show.
Movies: 'Moana' and 'Mary Poppins Returns'
In 2016, Miranda brought his talents to the big screen, composing the lyrics and music for "How Far I'll Go," for the animated film Moana. The track was nominated for an Oscar in 2017, before winning a Grammy the following year for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
Extending his reach into the film industry, Miranda landed a prominent role as Jack the lamplighter in the well-received Mary Poppins Returns (2018).
Wife and Children
Miranda wed scientist and lawyer Vanessa Nadal, a graduate of MIT, in 2010. The couple has two sons, Sebastian and Francisco.
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