Composer Manuel Miranda still on a roll
Winning a Pulitzer Prize and a clutch of Tony Awards in a single year would be enough for almost anyone. Not LinManuel Miranda. Not in 2016.
The Hamilton writer-composer picked up those honors and also earned a Golden Globe nomination, won the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, wrote music for a top movie, and inspired a bestselling book, a best-selling album of Hamilton covers and a popular PBS documentary.
A new honor came on Wednesday when Miranda bested Beyonce, Adele and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, among others, to be named The Associated Press Entertainer of the Year, voted by members of the news cooperative and AP entertainment reporters.
“There’s been more than a little good luck in the year itself and the way it’s unfolded,” Miranda says after being told of the honor. “I continue to try to work on the things I’ve always wanted to work on and try to say yes to the opportunities that I’d kick myself forever if I didn’t jump at them.”
When he hosted Saturday Night Live in October, he somewhat tongue-in-cheek acknowledged the rarity of having a theater composer as host, saying: “Most of you watching at home have no idea who I am.” They surely must by now. Miranda was virtually everywhere in popular culture this year — stage, film, TV, music and politics, while engaging on social media as he went. Like a lyric he wrote for Alexander Hamilton, it seemed at times that the nonstop Miranda was working as if he was “running out of time”.
Julio D. Diaz, of the Pensacola News Journal, says Miranda “made the whole world sing, dance and think. Coupled with using his prestige to become involved in important sociopolitical issues, there was no greater or more important presence in entertainment in 2016.”
Among the things Miranda did this year are asking Congress to help dig Puerto Rico out of its debt crisis, getting an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, performing at a fundraiser for Hamilton Hillary Clinton on Broadway, lobbying to stop gun violence in the United States and teaming up with Jennifer Lopez on the benefit single Love Make the World Go Round.
He and his musical Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards in June, but perhaps his deepest contribution that night was tearfully honoring those killed hours before at an Orlando nightclub with a beautiful sonnet: “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside,” he said. “Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”
He started the year onstage in the Broadway hit Hamilton and ended it with a Golden Globe nomination for writing the song How Far I’ll Go from Moana, which was on top of the box office for three weeks this month, earning $165 million.
“I’ve been jumping from thing to thing and what’s been thrilling is to see the projects that happen very quickly kind of exploding side-by-side with the projects I’ve been working on for years,” Miranda says.
Though theater fans have long cherished his fluency in both Stephen Sondheim and Tupac, Hamilton helped Miranda break into the mainstream in 2016. The groundbreaking, biographical hiphop show tells the true story of an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who rises to the highest ranks of American society, told by a young African-American and Latino cast.
The show’s effects were felt across the nation this year, cheered by politicians, stars and rappers alike and even helping shape the debate over the nation’s currency (Hamilton stays on the $10 bill, in part due to Miranda’s show.)
But the musical also sparked controversy when the cast delivered a pointed message about diversity to the vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, while he attended a performance in November. President-elect Donald Trump demanded an apology, which did not come.
That kerfuffle was part of a Hamilton- heavy fall that included an album of celebrity covers and songs called The Hamilton Mixtape, as well as a documentary on the show that aired on PBS and attracted more than 3.6 million television viewers.
Erin O’Neill of The Marietta Times says Miranda dominated entertainment news this year but, more importantly, “opened a dialogue about government, the founding of our country and the future of politics in America”.
There’s more Miranda to come in 2017, including filming Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt (due out Christmas 2018) and an ambitious TV and film adaptation of the fantasy trilogy The Kingkiller Chronicle.
“I’m back in a planting mode after a harvest,” Miranda says, laughing.
There’s been more than a little good luck in the year itself and the way it’s unfolded.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer-composer
Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and actor, receives a Grammy Award in New York in February.