Long before Hamilton became the Broadway sensation that it is and put Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name on the map, he was known to a smaller group of Broadway fans for In The Heights which opened in 2008. Set in Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights, the musical blended Latin, jazz, and hip-hop influences. It was exciting, exuberant and introduced us to the talent that was Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show went on to win four Tony Awards and was the first step in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s path to EGOT.
The irresistible musical would also earn Miranda a Grammy Award. Check another EGOT box. In 2015, Hamilton exploded on Broadway. It’s August 6 opening night performance won rave reviews across the board, and the phenomenon was born. Miranda added more Grammys and Tonys to his collection — and added an Emmy Award for the song “Bigger,” performed during the The 67th Annual Tony Awards broadcast. Third on the EGOT checklist.
Last month, Miranda was nominated for Best Original Song for Moana’s How Far I’ll Go. If he wins that Oscar next weekend, Miranda will join the ranks of Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Helen Hayes, and Richard Rodgers who all hold an Emmy win, Oscar win, Grammy win, and Tony win. Miranda would also become the youngest person to EGOT, and the fastest to win all four.
I could spend hours talking about Hamilton and In The Heights, but let’s consider Miranda and his songwriting talent put to lovely use for Best Original Song nominee, “How Far I’ll Go”. When Disney announced Miranda would be writing the music for Moana, I jumped for joy. Who better to write music than Miranda? Broadway talent who can rap, write and perform so effortlessly, and deliver speeches that inspire. Remember his emotional speech of resilient uplift when Hamilton won the day soon after the Orlando nightclub shooting?
Moana personifies the quintessential Disney princess story. She’s a young princess who has always been encouraged to follow her dreams by her grandmother, but her father, Chief Tu is concerned about how far — and into what risks — those dreams may take so and tells Moana never to venture further than the Pacific Island’s reef because of the dangers he senses that far from shore. He wants to raise her so she can safely lead the people of the island. Moana’s grandma tells her stories about the island’s history. The legends are filled with awe-inspiring but fearsome details, including Maui’s battle with a demigod who can shapeshift using a magical hook. According to legend the demigod’s hook and the treasured heart of Te Fiti lie in the deep of the ocean. Moana hears the call of the oceans and sets out on an adventure, determined to find out if the path to do good is her destiny.
Not only does Moana leave us feeling giddy, it’s a fine story of empowerment with a great heroine at the heart of its story. Throw in Miranda’s music to buoy Moana spirits on her ocean quest and our heart are easily conquered in the bargain.
“How Far I’ll Go” is a perfect song for our troubled times, and another instant classic in Disney repertoire. Catchy, memorable and timeless, the music and lyrics would do Alan Menken and Howard Ashman proud. Did I mention Miranda has been a life-long Disney fan? Lyrically, the song exemplifies Miranda’s immense talent as a songwriter. The music is rich and captures the South Sea atmosphere as it transports you into her world, immersing you in her journey and fate. It’s a fantastic Disney, “I want” song that’s incredibly infectious and its reprise will make you cry. The entire soundtrack is worth a listen, many times over. Mark Macina composes the score, and Opetaia Foa’i, a Samoan singer helped Miranda to put it all together. Sung by Auli’i Cravalho in the film, the lyrics of “How Far I’ll Go” tell the whole story. Moana wants more, she wants to see what lies further, past the familiar reefs and her island’s reassuring surf. She yearns to discover what’s out there beyond the limits to explore the limitless potential she feels.
The first verse accompanies Moana staring out at the waves and the mysterious endless horizon that beckons beyond. She’s trying hard to obey her father’s wishes, but the call of the sea is just so strong:
“I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try”
But she can’t resist. The limits are too hard to accept. She knows there’s something out there waiting for her and if she’s free to explore she can go far enough to find it:
“One day I’ll know
If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.”
Moana wrestles with destiny and her calling in life, to lead her people:
“I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?”
When Moana sings, “What’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?” given where the song occurs in the film, we know Moana’s destiny is about to be revealed and though we cannot anticipate what may happen along the way, we’re eager to see.
In case we need more proof of Miranda’s talent, he was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Hamilton. If he wins the Oscar, not only will he EGOT, but he will PEGOT. There are currently only two other people in the world who hold that honor, Richard Rodgers and Marvin Hamlisch.
Listen to these lyrics to be reminded that “How Far I’ll Go” is truly the perfect Disney song — and consider Lin-Manuel Miranda’s joyous creation for Best Original Song.