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Hamilton Creator and MacArthur Genius Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Early Works

Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda: young, scrappy, and hungry.

Still from YouTube

Before he was creating the hottest show on Broadway, getting profiled in the New Yorker, and winning a MacArthur “Genius” grant, Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda was … doing some pretty goofy stuff. Those who follow Miranda on Twitter will know that he is not shy about his less-glamorous past performances, but there are some that even the most #Ham4Ham superfans will have never seen. Below, a tour of Miranda’s pre-Broadway performance history.

(Note: This is just scraping the surface—Miranda’s YouTube channel, named after his In the Heights character usnavi, is a goldmine of charming and often endearingly amateurish old videos. You can find freestyles, Latin-style covers of pop songs, home movies, and a video of Miranda starring as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar at Wesleyan. There’s also a video of the moment a teacher first asked Miranda to write a musical for his high school, changing his life—which video also features a cameo from a teenaged Chris Hayes. Still, the clips below are the real highlights.)

Sesame Street and The Electric Company (2009)

These two appearances were technically both filmed after In the Heights moved to Broadway, but I’m including them here anyway, because everyone needs to know that Lin-Manuel Miranda (aka Sesame Street’s Freddy Flapman) is for the children.

Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)  
Just before In the Heights moved to Broadway, Miranda appeared together with collaborator Thomas Kail (director of In the Heights and Hamilton) in the Sex and the City movie as … two guys who move a couch. The scene only lasts about 30 seconds, and their performances seem to be uncredited (their only line is “yeah”), but that hasn’t stopped Miranda from proudly listing the appearance among his film credits.

(Side note: According to a commenter on the message board, that’s also Seth Stewart—Graffiti Pete in In the Heights and a member of the ensemble in Hamilton—on the stoop.)

The Sopranos (2007)

For his first TV role, Miranda played the bellman, aka “that fuckin’ guy,” on this Season 6 episode. Behold his truly MacArthur-level performance:

“Heights Cool Musical Too … Bet on It!” (2007)

This parody of the High School Musical 2 number “Bet on It,” apparently written and recorded while procrastinating working on the Broadway version of In the Heights, features Miranda going full Efron. (Bonus: Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo from a young Jonathan Groff, King George III himself, at around 1:30.)

Music video for The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (c. 1997)

Miranda accurately describes this video, made when he was 17, as consisting of “pretty much every cool effect you could do with a hi-8 camera in 1997.” It’s an apt description.

“Sound Laser!” (c. 1995)

According to Miranda, this was his final project for his ninth grade composition class. In the YouTube description, Miranda notes, “I’ve come a long way.”

Bye Bye Birdie (c. 1992)

When he was still young, scrappy, and hungry, Miranda starred as Conrad Birdie in a sixth grade production of Bye Bye Birdie. “It may not look like much now,” Miranda writes, recalling his gold lamé jacket and “every girl in the grade screaming at my every move,” “but this was the moment I realized I’d be doing this for the rest of my life.”

Lip-syncing in his bedroom (c. 1988)

Miranda still uploads a video of himself lip-syncing every now and then (some things never change), but it’s hard to beat these early videos of the future Tony winner dancing on his He-Man bed sheets.

First up is this routine set to the title number from Footloose, which features the roughly 8-year-old Miranda lip-syncing into his toothbrush. Miranda offers a helpful gloss of the move with the sweatpants, around 2:50: “I used to call those my ‘stunt pants’ because I theorized that if I stood just offscreen, made like I was jumping, and swung them upward, it would look like I was doing a backflip JUST OFFSCREEN. You can see how that theory turned out.”

From around the same period, here is Miranda practicing his dance moves to Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking,” popularized by the Pretty Woman soundtrack:

Book report on The Pushcart War (c. 1988)

Perhaps the earliest of the many works that Miranda has uploaded, this 3rd grade book report on Jean Merrill’s children’s novel also features a spirited performance by Miranda as the Pushcart King himself, Maxie Hammerman (around 2:08). Other performers include, as Miranda notes, “my mother as the teacher with the monologue, and my abuela, my sister, and my great-grandmother Mama Justa as teachers on strike.” He was only about 8, but he did not throw away his shot: He got an A.

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