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Lin-Manuel Miranda in Washington Heights (2008) ? You Had To Be There | MTV News


– (Interviewer) Let's keep that eye line nice and tight – Can I be drinking the coffee while we do this interview? – (Interviewer) It doesn't have Starbucks on it

– It does not, it's just generic bodega coffee – [In Spanish] The press! – [In Spanish] How are you? – [In Spanish] I want to buy this – [In Spanish] Thank you – [In Spanish] Thank you, boss – (Interviewer) OK, so let's start, actually, if you don't mind just telling us, kind of succinctly, your name and everything that you do for 'In the Heights

' – My god, what don't I do? Hi, my name is Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I am the composer/lyricist of 'In the Heights' I started writing 'In The Heights' when I was 19 years old, and I just turned 28 a few months ago So, I have spent eight years writing the show, and I also play Usnavi, the bodega owner at the heart of the story – (Interviewer) Can you tell me little about what 'In the Heights' is about? – Sure, 'In the Heights' is basically three days in the life of this block in Washington Heights, New York on the brink of transition It's getting more expensive, rents are going up everywhere, and we see these three businesses, and we meet about 12 characters, and how they experience this change

I play Usnavi who is the bodega owner, so all of the stories sort of pass through his store Everyone gets their coffee, their newspaper, their donuts, their lotto ticket from Usnavi So through him we get to meet the whole neighborhood – (Interviewer) Would you say one of the many things that's fascinating about the show is the music that's in it? – Yeah – (Interviewer) It's a bit different than you'd find in any of the theaters up and down that same street

So I'm kind of curious how you would describe the music that's in this show – The music is really a mix – a potpourri, if you will – of all the music you'd hear in Washington Heights I mean, even just filming this, it's hard to get people to turn down their radios That's what it's like in Washington Heights, there's salsa blasting out of stereos, there's hip-hop and reggaeton coming out of people's cars, and we really try to use the music of this neighborhood – salsa, merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, which I grew up with – and use it to tell a story A sort of old fashioned story

It surprises me that no one has put hip-hop and Latin music into a Broadway musical before me I'm surprised that I beat everyone to the finish line because I think the potential for this music is unlimited, and fascinating So, I am surprised I got here first because I've been writing this since 1999 But we're thrilled to be here, and thrilled to – what's really exciting is we get 80-year-old grandmas who say, "I hate rap music, but I love this!" And we get, you know, we get kids who just are like, "This is real" Our best show, or my favorite show, we had about 400 kids from Washington Heights, and when they – the screams they let out when they saw the Dominican flag up on that stage, it's an incredibly validating experience

So it's been really great to see kids relate to the show – (Interviewer) Obviously, studies are saying there's a whole new mix of people that are coming to the theater, which is a great thing Do you think that perhaps it will even see more into the mainstream? – Well, you know, my main argument is that I think musical theater has never gone away because most anyone who goes to high school has h ad some sort of school play, or school musical That's why 'High School Musical' is this international phenomenon, is everyone can relate to that That's most people's way into musical theater

Most people can't afford Broadway tickets, but they do know what a musical is because it's come to their town or it's come to their city or it's come to their school So, it's always been bubbling under the surface If we create shows that people will come to New York to see I think there's a lot of potential for that Because it's already in there, it's in our DNA as a country Musical theater is a part of our history

– (Female Interviewer) So, walk and talk? – (Interviewer) Yeah, let's walk and talk ‘cause, you know, hit these stores, then we’ll turn the corner – (Female Interviewer) You didn't exactly grow up in Washington Heights – you were just over the border, right? – I did, I grew up 10 blocks from here, if you walk down that hill you'll hit my house My parents still live there, but, you know my dad was a community organizer in Washington Heights I took piano lessons 10 blocks this way, on 181st and Cabrini [streets], and frankly, going to Hunter [College] on the Upper East Side on Manhattan, anything North of 125th Street was the Bronx in their eyes So, I always was sort of conscious of growing up in northern Manhattan

And then the other thing was, one of the first songs I wrote for the show I started singing to myself: "In Washington Heights" Inwood just doesn't sing like that They say brilliant people borrow from the greats, and geniuses steal from them, outright You know, there's a lot of 'West Side Story' influence in this show, there's a lot of 'Rent' influence in this show Because, you know, I saw 'Rent' for my 17th birthday and it was a watershed moment for me It was the first time I had seen a contemporary musical in my life, I was like "Oh, you're allowed to write about what you know in a musical? You're allowed to write about the East Village now, and artists struggling whether to eat or pay their rent

" I related to that immensely because I knew I was going into the arts, and I knew I was gonna be broke for a really long time So, it was really important for me and it gave me permission to start writing about the things I knew I didn't have to write about a phantom in an opera house, or cats I tell people that basically the characters of the show are basically a funhouse mirror of Quiara [Alegría Hudes], who wrote the book, and my life Her parents ran a restaurant, and had various businesses growing up

So, she understands that viewpoint really well I had a lady who was my babysitter, she actually babysat my dad, and lived with us and babysat me who played the lotto every day She was a compulsive gambler and we'd go and I would pull the arm on the slot machines for her I think the most autobiographical aspect of the show really is Usnavi's inability to talk to girls That was certainly me when I started writing the show and now even today

Getting tongue-tied around attractive women is something I'm especially good at I make sure that made it to the stage intact OK, here we go Bodegas Let's go to the drink aisle because I can show you fun stuff here

Dalé (Speaking Spanish) Bodega, Washington Heights, don't be afraid This is our bodega, these are your mainstream drinks But here we have the drinks you won’t get anywhere else You have your Coco Ricos, you have you Cola Champagne which makes you feel very fancy when you're a little kid

What else do we have? Vitamin Waters, that’s 50 Cent’s drink This is the good stuff, this is the real deal – (Male Interviewer) Are you ready for your own drink? Are they gonna put your face on the (crosstalk)? – (laughing) Yeah, right It's gonna be called Fabuloso The only problem is this is laundry detergent

What else we got? Here, this is stuff you will not find on 45th and Park Guarapiña That is a non-alcoholic drink involving pineapples and some other stuff It's sort of an energy drink, but it looks like beer (speaking Spanish) And this is the stuff, we have this in our play

Country Club, merengue flavor Do you know what merengue flavor is? I don't either, but it's effing good – (Male Interviewer) Can I get a close up real quick? – Yeah – (Male Interviewer) That's great I think you're good so we can just walk out

– All right Great Walk it out? Let's do it Oh, wait: Let me tell you something else, too These ATMs at these bodegas, they're great because they distribute $10 bills

So if you have $17 in your bank account, you can still get money

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