Far from a one-hit wonder (though any one of his hits would be more than enough to ensure his eternal fame), the multi-hyphenate Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning composer, lyricist, actor, and Pulitzer Prize recipient Lin-Manuel Miranda is enjoying an extra-busy and rewarding week, with appearances on popular TV talk shows, the opening of the film adaptation of his blockbuster Broadway musical In the Heights, and the reopening of The Drama Book Shop, which he co-owns with director Thomas Kail.
Following last night’s advance premiere, the movie’s official release date is today, Thursday, June 10, when it hits theaters nationwide and begins streaming exclusively on HBO Max. Inspired by his upbringing in Washington Heights, the film, with music and lyrics by Miranda, screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and directed by Jon M. Chu, is set just outside the 181st Street subway stop, where a vibrant and tight-knit Latino community, centered around the affable bodega owner Usnavi, dreams and sings of a better life.
Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Bareera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, and Jimmy Smits lead the talented cast, with Miranda appearing in the role of Piraguero, the neighborhood street vendor who sells piragua (Puerto Rican shaved ice in the shape of a cone) from his cart.
On Tuesday, June 8, Miranda made a remote guest appearance on ABC TV’s Tamron Hall show to discuss the film, and shared his feelings about his first viewing of it:
“The first time I saw it on the screen was in Puerto Rico with my family, which was insane. You know, characters in the show are named after my cousins in Puerto Rico, so they were just thrilled to share that experience with me. But the first time I saw it in the theater was with my original Broadway cast. And I held hands with Chris Jackson, who played Benny, I held hands with Janet [Dacal] who played Carla. And that final scene of the movie, there are people in that movie who are no longer with us. Doreen Montalvo, who was one of our original cast members, passed away last year, and she’s in the last scene of that movie. And she sings the ‘Para Siempre’ section of the movie. So she gets to live forever, inside of this show that she loved so much. And we miss her so much. So it was really kind of like layers and layers of experience on top of each other. I’m still processing it.”
He also explained why the film is such an important milestone for the Latino community, as seen in the clip below:
In addition to his excitement about In the Heights, Miranda also heralded the reopening of Broadway on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday, with an original all-star take on Hamilton’s “You’ll Be Back,” entitled “Broadway’s Back.” You can watch (and rewatch!) the video of the exuberant number, performed by Miranda and Fallon, along with Broadway luminaries Kristin Chenoweth, Christopher Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Laura Benanti, Jimmy Smits, and Olga Merediz, in its entirety here:
And Broadway isn’t all that’s back. Miranda’s devotion to the theater world extends to his salvation of a legendary 104-year-old independent bookstore, with today’s reopening of The Drama Book Shop in its new location at 266 West 39th Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. He, stage director Thomas Kail, producer Jeffrey Seller, and theater owner, operator, and producer James L. Nederlander bought the business – a midtown cultural mainstay since 1917 – from Rozanne Seelen, whose late husband Arthur Seelen had purchased the store in 1958.
Over the years, the shop moved several times, most recently to its now permanently closed location on West 40th Street. It was there that Back House Productions – a theater troupe from Wesleyan University, founded by Kail, John Buffalo Mailer, Neil Stewart, and Anthony Veneziale – became the resident theater company in the basement’s 60-seat Arthur Seelen Theatre, and in 2002, began rehearsals of a new musical written by Miranda and directed by Kail, In The Heights, which would go on to win four Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Musical.
The new 39th Street space, designed by Hamilton scenic designer David Korins and his team, pays homage to 20th-century European cafes and reading rooms, and features a full service cafe serving coffee, teas, and light snacks. For the health and safety of customers, the store is presently operating at limited capacity, requires that patrons wear masks and maintain social distance, and has implemented a timed-entry reservation system.
Among the venue’s upcoming events is the virtual Zoom book launch for In the Heights: Finding Home on Tuesday, June 15, at 8 pm, with co-authors Miranda, Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter. Tickets, priced at $40 + $1.25 fee, include online admission, a hardcover copy of the book, sales tax, and shipping and handling (if applicable; buyers also have the option of picking it up at the store).
All I can add to that is, “Welcome back!” to In the Heights, Broadway, and The Drama Book Shop, and sincere thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, his team, and colleagues for their immeasurable talent and contributions to making it happen!