To celebrate Variety’s 115th anniversary, we went to the archives to see how some of Hollywood’s biggest stars first landed in the pages of our magazine. Read more from the archives here.
Eight years before “Hamilton” became a Broadway (and worldwide) phenomenon, Variety wrote about that musical’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda on Feb. 12, 2007, in a story headlined “Producers Take Risk on Tyro Talent.”
The story about bringing “In the Heights” to stage began “Breaks don’t get much bigger than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s.” At 27, he was making his Broadway debut as composer, lyricist and star of the musical at Off-Broadway’s 37 Arts complex.
It’s hard to get backing even for established works, but especially rare for an unknown. Miranda told Variety’s Mark Blankenship, “I’ve never heard salsa music used to tell a story onstage, even though it’s incredibly dramatic. I didn’t know anything about the hip-hop theater movement at the time we started workshops. All I knew is that when they heard a hip-hop song, our audience sat the hell up.” His goal: to portray life in his under-represented neighborhood. “I wanted to create something that shows Latinos in the everyday mode I’m used to, and not just in gangs.”
He mounted an early version when he was a sophomore at a Wesleyan development workshop and the show incorporated a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes.
Variety said producers didn’t balk at the relatively large 20-member ensemble and orchestra of seven. There was speculation about a transfer to Broadway, but the immediate hurdle was to attract an audience to a relatively isolated neighborhood for a work with unknowns. “Marketing has aggressively courted Latinos (not normally a major theatergoing demo) and young, nontraditional ticketbuyers,” the story said.
Miranda said the audiences were a diverse breakdown of ages and ethnicities. “I hope the show becomes that event you take your girl out to. That’s what theater was to me growing up.”
Variety’s reviewer hailed Miranda as a “dynamic new talent” and “an appealing performer as well as a gifted songwriter.”
“In the Heights” ran for five months at 37 Arts, and opened March 9, 2008 at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre. The musical was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning four, including best musical and original score. It closed in 2011 after 1184 performances.
The film adaptation is set for 2021. “Hamilton” opened in 2015, with Miranda again responsible for script, music, lyrics and starring in title role.
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