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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

21 Chump Street, A hilarious and painful mini-musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ira Glass.

This morning, I found myself telling three different people about 21 Chump Street,  the mini-musical (14 minutes, tops) based on an Ira Glass piece, a story by Robby Brown, that aired on WBEZ's This American Life in May 2011. The interviews were about a kid and a narc involved an undercover sting in high schools in Palm Beach County, Florida. Lin-Manuel Miranda turned them into a very brief musical that is funny and touching while it breaks the heart. (

Anthony Ramos, pleading, "What I Gotta Do To Be Wid You?" 
Somebody brilliant (Ira? Miranda?) had the idea to turn this classic Glass interview into a musical, with a professional cast. According to Glass, about seventy to eighty percent of the lyrics are taken directly from the interviews, with the other twenty to thirty being, "artistic inspiration." Miranda wrote the musical in--get this--a week. 

Justin serenades "Naomi" (Nye-O-Mi) in front of his classmates
Justin in an ecstasy of love for Naomi
The play is passionate, exuberant, joyful and sad. The cast is wonderful, especially Anthony Ramos as Justin, Lindsay Mendez as Naomi, and of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as, I assume, Ira Glass. The lyrics, with lines like: "What the  heck I gotta do to be with you, LOLOLOL," and "She was a light-skinned-ed, Puerto Rican-Domincan, long-hair, mature-in-the-body like--Whoa," will surprise you with their sticking power, as will the story, with our poor A-student senior, Justin, done-in by his love, getting sliced up by a morally ambiguous razor. 

If you know any teenagers, this would be a good place to get started talking about complicated subjects like love, sex and peer (well, romantic) pressure. If you're a grownup with any kind of memory of adolescents, well, after you watch it, you could start talking to yourself. . .

God, they knew how to dress in those days, didn't they?
Anthony Ramos is currently appearing in Hamilton, with Mr. Miranda. 

Ms. Mendez is coaching, "actortherapy," and I would assume, auditioning around. (It's always easiest for young males to find work in theater.) 

Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Ira Glass
And, of course, six cheers for Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ira Glass. 
May they have many more such collaborations. 

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