The Genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda

The 'Hamilton' creator could attain PEGOT status with an Oscar win for 'Moana'

If you’ve been reading my little column since its inception, you might’ve noticed by now that I like my shit circular: Golden snitches, alcohol receptacles, human-size latex bubbles. It extends beyond the physical, though—my dorky little brain dances when circumstances have circumference, and the past 12 months have rounded themselves out quite deliciously.

Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote an article about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but a gentleman by the name of Lin-Manuel Miranda hijacked a few inches of that column. Well, he’s gone and done it again. Another movie came out, and it has wormed its way under my skin in much the same vein as Miranda’s Hamilton and In the Heights musicals.

It’s Moana, Disney’s most imaginative movie in years, which was promoted by possibly the company’s most misleading ad campaign. If you saw the trailers for the film and were deterred, I implore you to think again. The film follows the daughter of a South Pacific village chief—though don’t mistake her for a “princess”—in her quest to restore order with the ancient Polynesian gods and lead her people back to the ocean in the canoe wakes of their ancestors. There is no pesky romance—simply magic, adventure and heroics, and the original songs are what give Moana its heart. That’s where Mr. Miranda comes in.

The award-winning artist, alongside Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i, has created a rich and respectful soundtrack for a story set in the South Pacific. I have already spent a fair few hours trying to perfect the main theme, “How Far I’ll Go” (performed heroically in the movie by rising star Auli’i Cravalho, voicing the titular role), on my ukulele. It’s beautiful … and tough. Lyrics written by a rapper are not the easiest to sing at speed; Miranda is known for his internal rhyme schemes and alliterative lyrical acrobatics, and let’s be honest: I’m a novice, at best.

Dwayne Johnson voices the role of Moana’s demigod Maui, rapping on “You’re Welcome,” and the triumphant “We Know the Way” features Miranda himself as one of Moana’s ancestors. Plus, there is “Shiny,” performed by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords—the track sounds as if Miranda and David Bowie had a musical baby, and that baby is a giant jewel-encrusted crab monster. I’m not kidding. Delightful doesn’t cover it.

If (or when) Miranda gets an Oscar for any one of these incredible songs, he will become one of only three people in history to earn PEGOT status, joining those who have won the Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. What tickles my brain is that one of the two current PEGOT holders is Richard Rodgers, whose name is emblazoned across the theater where Miranda’s award-winning musicals both played on Broadway. There are those circles again. Please permit me to squee!

I’m now reaching the end of my time performing in Absinthe here in Las Vegas. In a period of sadness and upheaval for me (two and a half years is a long time, and I’m going to miss this show like crazy), Moana reminded me of my previous adventures, and that there are only more to come. Almost 10 years ago I was dancing on cruise lines and spent my last three months as a 21-year-old circumnavigating the globe. During that time I visited Tahiti, Moorea, Tonga, Rarotonga. …  The mountain on Moana’s island home looks a whole lot like Bali Hai, a mountain I have climbed, and on top of which is a pineapple farm where I had the best damn jam-on-toast of my fucking life.

Like Moana, I seek adventure. I wish the same for you and yours in 2017. 7

See Charlie Starling in Absinthe, twice nightly in the Spiegeltent at Caesars Palace, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wed-Sun. Visit for tickets. Follow her on Twitter: @charlistarling