For most of Hamilton's Broadway run, actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda spent most of his time on-stage, playing title character Alexander Hamilton. But on the nights that the Tony winner wasn't center stage, Roots drummer and Hamilton music producer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson told Entertainment Weekly that Lin-Miranda watched celebrities watch Hamilton to gauge their reactions in the audience — all in the name of research. Questlove is one of the producers of producers on both the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording and the long-awaited Hamilton Mixtape and he told the publication that he too did the same thing — but Miranda took it a step further. "Lin sat in disguise," Thompson said in an interview with EW. "That’s how much of a nerd and dweeb Lin is. He kept tabs on everyone who watched – who got the jokes, who laughed the most, who didn’t get the jokes."
It's hilarious to think of Miranda sitting in the audience in please-don't-recognize-me costume, but this fun fact just further proves how much of a perfectionist he is and why Hamilton is so, well, perfect. He took advantage of the rare opportunity that live theater offers — being able to see the audience's immediate reaction to what's on stage — and studied it, especially when VIP guests like President Barack Obama and Oprah sat in the crowd. Questlove even mentioned to EW that one unnamed high-profile star spent the majority of a performance staring at their cell phone (yikes).
"Whenever a high-profile celebrity would come, or someone of Obama’s caliber, Lin would not do Hamilton," Questlove told EW. "So there’s a whole bunch of high-profile people like the President, and Oprah, [where] Lin would rather watch them watch the show. Obama’s never seen Lin as Hamilton, which is crazy to me."
When Obama first watched Hamilton last year, the New York Times reported that Miranda turned over the reins of the title character to then-understudy Javier Muñoz (who now plays Alexander Hamilton full-time). The NY Times wrote that Miranda was sitting out to "watch and evaluate the show in advance of" its big opening in August 2015 — but now fans know exactly where he was watching and evaluating from.
According to Questlove in EW, Miranda has taken copious notes on the audience while sitting in the seats among them. Thompson told the publication: "For real, he was like, 'This one yawned at this part. This one was sleepy but I forgave them because I knew they were on a long flight. This one gave it three standing ovations.'"
Now there's a show-within-a-show that would be fun to see: Watching Lin-Manuel Miranda take notes as he watches the audience watch Hamilton. Hamilton-ception, anyone?
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