CHICAGO -- The breakout hit "Hamilton" is branching out from New York for the first time when it debuts in Chicago next week, and even though writer/director/star Lin-Manuel Miranda said he'd only visited once before, he knew the musical would be headed here next.
"Chicago was always going to be the next stop -- it's the best theater town in the United States," Miranda told WGN's Dean Richards Thursday.
"Hamilton" made Miranda a household name, and although he's since cut his signature hair (and posed in a fancy suit on the cover of GQ), he says it's been an adjustment from the days when he could walk down the street unnoticed.
"For me the joy of participating in the world is getting to kind of observe it, so it's weird when the thing you're observing kind of looks back at you," he said.
Still, Miranda has made good use of the spotlight, serving as an advocate for his parents' native Puerto Rico and delivering a memorable tribute to the Orlando shooting victims during his Tony's acceptance speech.
"It felt kind of cruel to be surrounded by the theater community, which is the most diverse community I've ever known, and [the attacks] seemed to take aim at that," Miranda said of the speech.
While Miranda said he knew history teachers would like "Hamilton," a wide range of audiences are not just enjoying the play, but also being inspired by it. To Miranda, their experience mirrors how he felt reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton and reflecting on how much he overcame in his relatively short life.
"They leave like, 'What am I doing with my life? Am I making the days of my life, none of which are promised, count?'" Miranda said.
Miranda will be moving to London soon to star in a sequel to the classic musical "Mary Poppins." Set about 20 years after the original, the enigmatic nanny will return to take care of the children of grown-up Jane and Michael Banks. Miranda said he's excited to play a new character, a lamplighter named Jack.
"I showed my son that movie for the first time, he's just about to turn two, and when the music started he gasped," Miranda said. "That's the effect it still has on me; you hear the music and you see the roofs of London and you gasp."
When asked to do a freestyle rap about the Cubs' playoff bid, Miranda was happy to oblige, so long as he was backed by a beatboxing Dean Richards: