Interview: Lin-Manuel Miranda on witnessing the Australian production of Hamilton

  • Peter Gray
  • March 6, 2023
  • Comments Off on Interview: Lin-Manuel Miranda on witnessing the Australian production of Hamilton

In his first trip to Australia to meet the local company of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda delighted the Brisbane cast and surprised the city’s audience when he made a special appearance during the curtain call of a performance this past weekend.

Speaking honestly, openly and humorously about the show, its creation, and the Australian production, Miranda held an intimate conference to recognise his contribution to the cultural zeitgeist and to discuss the impact that Hamilton is having around the world.  Our own Peter Gray was one of the select invitees to talk with the award-winning creator himself about if he feels any protection over his original role, why this story has resonated with international audiences, and his unique song-writing process.

You’re here in Australia.  Are you potentially looking at taking some cast members potentially overseas?

Honestly, the timing (was) as soon as I could make it work.  I think you know there was a moment during the global pandemic where Australia was the only (Hamilton) company in the world (working), and that was a real beacon of hope to our actors and our other companies that theatre would come back.  It was also harder to visit (with) a 14 day quarantine, and you had to really commit to a kind of time.  During 2020 I was writing Encanto, so this has really been the soonest I could see.

I made a promise to see the Australian company while it was still in Australia, and they’re leaving soon, so I came as soon as I could be.  The Australian cast holds up to (the) international casts.  They’re right on the level, and they’re so fantastic.  I remember doing the casting virtually, and I remember seeing Jason Arrow’s audition (for Alexander Hamilton), and it had to have been April or May of 2020, and it was around the time we were watching and editing Hamilton for release, so they were really stacking up against the originals in a very tangible way.  We were really proud of the incredible company we were able to put together from here locally.

Going off that mention of the cast, do you feel a certain protection of the role in giving it to another person to embody?

The role of Hamilton? No more so than any of the other roles in the show.  I played Alexander for a year, but I actually played all of them when I was writing it.  I must have looked insane to my dog when I was doing rap battles back and forth in my house.  I think what we’re always looking for are folks who are storytellers.  Sometimes that background comes heavily from musical theatre (and) sometimes that comes heavily from the hip-hop discipline.  What’s really fun about our show is everyone kind of meets in the middle and we just look for the best possible storytellers.

We don’t really learn about American history in Australia.  I hadn’t heard about Alexander Hamilton prior to this show.  Given that it has been so successful here, what do you think it is about this story that resonates with Australian audiences?

My kind of dirty secret answer to this is we didn’t learn much about American history either (laughs).  All I learned about Hamilton was when I picked up that book (Ron Chernow’s biography).  I knew he was the dude on the $10 bill.  I knew his son died, because I wrote a report about it in my junior year.  I think the curiosity that got it off the shelf and into my hands was that it felt like the most avoidable mistake in history.  That’s all I really knew (and) nothing else.  I think one of the secret ingredients in the recipe is my excitement.  In the fact that not a lot of people knew the story.  At least, this is not a story I learned.  We got a few highlights but we didn’t learn this story in our AP US History classes.  I think it’s just a compelling story.

Following on from that, one of the leads in the Brisbane run is an Indigenous First Nations Islander, and I wonder about the significance that has for you.  One of your quotes about the show was that “This is America then performed by the America now.”  

Well, it’s the first I saw haka moves in the Battle of Yorktown (laughs).  I looked up at the stage and saw this hand kind of going like this (mimics haka gesture), and I’m like, “Oh man, there’s some haka flavour in 1781!”  You know, I think what I love about the productions that have gone beyond the United States is that we are always looking for as diverse a crew of storytelling as made possible.  The diversity that we find in Australia is different from anywhere else.  So that history then becomes absorbed into the new crew of storytellers telling this particular story.

Speaking of the cast and meeting them last night, how was the experience for you?  And then watching the show too with a Brisbane audience.

Yeah, it was really amazing.  I mean, first of all, the cast is a mix of folks who started the show when it premiered here, and I know they were very proud to still be here and still tell the story.  And they were also keenly aware, like, “Hey, it took me a long time to get here.”  So there was that element of (that) too, in a very loving way.  It was a lot of fun.  We just had rooftop drinks after the show, and I really got to enjoy spending time talking to them.  The other fun thing about when you do a show like this, (this) two and a half hour show, is that we’re all saying the same words all over the world, and you do get a kind of fellowship.

I had a long conversation with a group of the actors last night about when the turntable doesn’t work (laughs).  It has happened to every company all over the world, sometimes the turntable doesn’t work.  So, we were sharing turntable horror stories.  (The character of) Philip Hamilton has died, but the turntable is not taking him away!  And what’s been really wonderful to see is that I know a lot of the Australian actors have come to the States and they visit New York, and they have a group of friends all ready.  They’ll DM via Instagram or email, and they’ll be shown around by this satellite family.  We all talked about that, too.  The connections that have been made across different companies.

You’ve written so many songs for different characters and separate projects, too.  I’m curious about your song-writing process…

I’ll take it whatever way it wants to (come).  I do believe they show up and, you know, different songwriters have different theories about it.  There’s a famous story about Michael Jackson’s insomnia, and someone said “Michael, you need to get some sleep!”, and he said, “If I go back to sleep, God will give the song to Prince!” (Laughs)

Hamilton’s a fantastic example, because every kind of song got written in every kind of way.  You’re trying to tell a big, complicated story.  (The song) “My Shot” took over a year, and it was 6 months before I ever sat at the piano.  It was very much a lyrics-first song, because I knew my thesis was Hamilton’s the best writer, so his bar better be good.  I just worked on his bars over different beats.

“You’ll Be Back” showed up on my honeymoon, without a piano anywhere in sight.  I had that (mimics the song’s beat) stuck in my head, and I think the reason it’s so catchy is because I had to remember it for the two weeks I was in Bora Bora with my wife until I could get back to a piano in the real world.  (And) there are songs like “That Would Be Enough”, which is a song Eliza sings to her husband, you won’t find that in a history book.  There’s no historical precedent for her saying, “I just need you alive and to be my husband.”  That came in about 45 minutes.  I remember tearfully playing it for my wife, and as I’m singing “That would be enough” – and it’s very much inspired by her – and she looks at me with this kinda grimace, like, “Do you wish I would say that to you?” (Laughs).

Is there one song or moment in the show that still gives you goosebumps?

There’s several.  I’m very deadline-based as a writer (and) it was the morning of a workshop and we’re going to be performing (Hamilton for the first time) in front of trusted friends and collaborators. And I hadn’t written the last song yet. So I woke up at four in the morning with the Chernow book and just all of the things Eliza did, and the remaining 50 years of her life and I would write one sentence (and would be wiping tears off my face).  I remember my dog just looking at me in the corner just whimpering, and my wife, who is not in showbusiness, being like, “Do you need water?” (laughs)

I know sometimes people get misty-eyed at the end of the show.  There’s an amazing scene in one of my favourite books, Like Water for Chocolate.  And the main character is cooking for her sister’s wedding to love of her life, and she’s so miserable that the love of her life is marrying her sister and not her.  She cries into the recipe, and then everyone who eats the cake just starts bursting into tears because the tears are in the recipe.  That’s kind of how I feel about the last song.

The Australian production of Hamilton is produced by Jeffrey SellerSander JacobsJill FurmanThe Public Theater and Michael Cassel AM.  It is currently running until April 23rd in Brisbane at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC.  Tickets only available through

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.