Lin Manuel Miranda and Friends Launch the 23/24 Season at Tilles Center
By: Iris Wiener
October 3, 2023: “You’re not living the dream- you’re living five dreams!” Thus began a powerful, enlightening evening of music and conversation as Jeremy McCarter interviewed Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning songwriter, actor, producer and director Lin-Manuel Miranda at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post. The event launched the new season of programming at Tilles Center on September 27th, and the excitement in the room was palpable.
Along with McCarter, with whom he co-authored two New York Times bestsellers, Miranda shared the stage with Broadway stars Mandy Gonzalez (In the Heights, Wicked, Hamilton) and Javier Muñoz (In the Heights, Hamilton). Dan Lipton (The Band’s Visit) served as music director and pianist alongside a four-piece band. The performers complemented Miranda’s intimate musings with powerful tunes from the shows and writers who influenced him. The sensational duo gripped their audience with Tick Tick Boom’s “Louder Than Words” and Rent’s “No Day But Today” after Miranda spoke of how the latter first gave him permission to write.
Theater enthusiasts in the crowd learned little known minutiae about the long, fascinating creative process behind In the Heights, such as killing off the character Nina’s brother early on to “make her more interesting and give the show more time.” It was thrilling to bear witness to Gonzalez performing an early version of “Breathe,” the song she eventually gave life when she originated the role of Nina on Broadway.
She and Muñoz brought incredible feeling to a little heard song of Miranda’s from Stephen Schwartz’ Working, “A Very Good Day,” after which McCarter asked the question everyone was thinking: “Why do you write songs that make everyone cry, Lin?” Miranda continued with a discussion about collaborating with the creative team of Bring it On, as well as his struggle with “I want” songs.
Miranda’s most endearing moments were when he spoke of his relationship with Stephen Sondheim. “You don’t stop talking to him,” he said. “I hear Stephen in my head all the time. Our encourager-in-chief is gone.” One of the most important lessons he learned from the musical theatre icon? “You have to write things for the love of doing it.”
Students from the Central Islip High School Concert Choir helped perform an epic penultimate finale, as they emphasized the power of Hamilton’s opening number, “My Shot” while backing Muñoz (who also gave it life on Broadway). Though the song has been performed in hundreds of iterations, it seemed to be brand new as it was layered with the talented voices of teenagers in Tilles Center’s warm setting. The choir also joined Gonzalez for “Fearless,” a song written by Miranda for her own album. They ended the evening with uncharted energy, taking on a fantastic medley from In the Heights.
This season mark’s Tom Dunn’s first as artistic director at Tilles Center, where he says their mission is to make world-class performances available for everyone. Affordable tickets were made available to students at Title 1 schools on Long Island, as well as for students at Long Island University. After such an invigorating, creative approach to programming with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Friends, one can only look forward to what is in store moving forward.
More information about upcoming performances at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts LIU Post can be found at https://www.tillescenter.org/events/brochure.