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Surprising precisely nobody, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama on Monday, joining a short but illustrious list of musicals that have won the prestigious arts-and-letters honor in its 100-year history. Prizes for history, fiction, biography and criticism were also announced.
The Pulitzer win had been widely predicted since Hamilton premiered at the Public Theater in February of last year, not only due to its near-unanimous critical acclaim but also because it adheres so neatly to the award’s chief criterion: “For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”
Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton, the show re-examines the history of the founding fathers and American independence through a multicultural contemporary lens, using diverse musical styles including rap, hip-hop, R&B and pop interpreted by a racially diverse cast.
In its citation, the Pulitzer board called Hamilton, “a landmark American musical about the gifted and self-destructive founding father whose story becomes both contemporary and irresistible.”
Miranda wrote the book, music and lyrics for the show, in addition to starring in the title role. The Pulitzer now further cements Hamilton’s status as the toughest ticket in town and the clear frontrunner to take the top musical kudos at this year’s Tony Awards in June.
The show was a genuine blockbuster right out of the gate, selling out the Richard Rodgers Theatre at every performance since the Broadway transfer took up residence last July. Produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and the Public Theater, it has grossed north of $65 million to date, chalking up the highest advance ticket sales in Broadway history.
Miranda was previously a Pulitzer finalist (with co-author Quiara Alegria Hudes) in 2009 for his earlier show, In the Heights. In addition to numerous other honors he has won for Hamilton, Miranda was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, commonly known as a “Genius Grant,” in September, which comes with a $625,000 stipend. The cash component of the Pulitzer, by comparison, is a relatively puny $10,000.
Hamilton becomes the first musical to nab the Pulitzer Prize for Drama since Next to Normal in 2010, and only the ninth in the prize’s long history, which stretches back to 1917. The show joins a list of musical winners that includes Of Thee I Sing in 1932, South Pacific in 1950, Fiorello! in 1960, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1962, A Chorus Line in 1976, Sunday in the Park With George in 1985 and Rent in 1996.
The other finalists in the 2016 drama category were Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Gloria, which premiered off-Broadway last summer, and Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which currently is running on Broadway and is among top contenders for play honors at the Tonys.
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