(Rebecca Mead’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 2/9; via Pam Green.)
In April, 2009, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a writer, composer, and performer, received a call from the White House. The new President and the First Lady were planning to host an evening of live performances centered on “the American experience,” and Miranda was invited to participate. Miranda, who was twenty-nine, had spent the previous year starring in the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” of which he was the composer and lyricist. Set in Washington Heights, the show incorporated salsa and merengue with rap and hip-hop, blending them with more conventional Broadway tropes, to winning effect. “Heights” had won four Tony awards, including those for Best Musical and Best Original Score, and Miranda had accepted the latter with an effervescent rap that invoked “Sunday in the Park with George”: “Mr. Sondheim / Look, I made a hat! / Where there never was a hat! / It’s a Latin hat at that!” (He then pulled a Puerto Rican flag from the pocket of his tuxedo.) The White House likely expected Miranda to perform something invoking the Latin-American experience, and he was told that a number from “In the Heights” would be welcome.