Composers Who Starred In Their Own Works

Typically, a composer of a musical will leave the task of bringing their music to life to the talented actors and actresses who get cast in their show. But for a few composers, their role in a show goes off the sheet music and onto the stage.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

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Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton¬†(left), as “Usnavi” in In the Heights (right)

It’s no secret that Pulitzer Prize-winner and worldwide celebrity Lin-Manuel Miranda is a man of many talents. So much so that he wrote and starred in not one, but two original works: In The Heights and Hamilton. Both performances earned him a Tony nomination in 2008 and 2016, respectively.

Sara Bareilles

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Sara Bareilles as “Jenna” in Waitress

Well-known singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles made her composing debut last season with Waitress, based on the 2007 film of the same name. Tony-winner Jessie Mueller originated the role of Jenna, but on March 31st earlier this year, she replaced Mueller in the role and will be baking pies and belting out her own songs like the iconic “She Used to Be Mine” until July 11th.

Dave Malloy

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Dave Malloy as “Pierre” in Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812

Josh Groban made his Broadway in November 2016 as the “bewildered and awkward” Pierre Bezukhov in the innovative electro-pop musical Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, which is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace. But in its earlier Off-Broadway productions in 2012 and 2013, and the subsequent cast album that followed them, composer Dave Malloy and his accordion helped bring to life this complex and beloved character.


Who’s your favorite composer who starred in their own work? Do you have a composer you think should be in their own show? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Spotlight On: Pasek and Paul

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Benj Pasek, 31, (left) and Justin Paul, 32
With seven Golden Globes, 14 Oscar nominations, and a hilariously accurate Saturday Night Live skit under its belt, it’s no understatement that the 2016 film La La Land is one of the biggest movie musical sensations in decades. But it’s the accoladed and accomplished young men behind the lyrics of director Damien Chazelle’s soaring cinematic masterpiece who are quickly rising to the top in both the film and Broadway industries alike.

Justin Pasek, 32, and Benj Paul, 31, are the composing duo responsible for the snappy lyrics to “Another Day of Sun” and the other La La Land songs you hope no one hears you singing in your car. The two self-proclaimed best friends met in college at University of Michigan at age 18, and from there began writing song cycles – their first being Edges, written in 2005. After college, Pasek and Paul’s debut as a Broadway song writing team came in 2010, when they signed on to the creative team for A Christmas Story: The Musical which premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and then later transferred to Broadway in 2012 with positive reviews and three Tony Award nominations. Around the same time, team’s next musical, Dogfight (based on the 1991 film of the same name), premiered Off Broadway in 2012 to, once again, a good amount of critical acclaim, gaining the pair a cult-following status in the theatre community.

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Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in La La Land, with lyrics written by Pasek and Paul.
Outside of La La Land, Pasek and Paul’s current composing endeavour is another Broadway musical, titled Dear Evan Hansen, about the titular high schooler who gets wrapped up in a lie surrounding another student’s death. Since its open in December 2016, critics and audiences alike have praised the show saying it could very well sweep the 2017 Tonys, with Pasek and Paul being some of the top contenders for the Best Original Score award. With the pair having just won a Golden Globe for La La Land as well as receiving two Oscar nominations, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see Pasek and Paul win the Tony based on their track record so far. Because they’re relatively new on the scene, Pasek and Paul are some of the first composers to utilize social media to their advantage when sharing their works, which has spread to Dear Evan Hansen’s marketing team, allowing them and Pasek and Paul themselves to engage in more intimate connections with their fans.

More than just La La Land, Pasek and Paul have planted their feet in the world of young new musical theatre composers, and are making it clear that they’re here to stay. The duo has proved themselves worthy of the theatre community’s acceptance time and time again, with lyrics that are relatable and complex throughout all of their works, and now the obvious success of Dear Evan Hansen, I’m confident in saying that the path ahead of these talented men is paved with more incredible and discussion worthy opportunities.