As suspected by the giddy crowd on Wednesday night – though it was never officially confirmed – Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda guest-starred in the opening night of Freestyle Love Supreme at the Venetian. That’s the improvised hip-hop show he cocreated in 2004 before Hamilton and In The Heights made him a household name.
Directed by Thomas Kail, Freestyle Love Supreme comedically engages audiences, who are not only encouraged — but are expected — to provide suggestions. Last night, one audience member reportedly shouted that she once started a rumor at her Catholic school that two nuns were “getting it on.”
Miranda responded: “Wow, we are in Vegas!”
The show’s Vegas incarnation – which runs 90 minutes – is led by MC Andrew “Jelly Donut” Bancroft and features Simone “Sims” Acosta, Richard “Rich Midway” Baskin Jr., Jay C. “Jellis J” Ellis, Kaila “Kaiser Rözé” Mullady, Morgan “Hummingbird” Reilly, and Dizzy Seine.
Improv guru Anthony Veneziale and Miranda conceived the show in 2004 during rehearsal breaks for In the Heights. It was performed multiple times over the years before debuting on Broadway, where it ran from October 2021 to January 2022. The Las Vegas cast recently toured the show to 11 US cities, ending in August in Pasadena.
Musically, Freestyle Love Supreme pays homage to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s classic 1965 album A Love Supreme, with dues also owed to the soul, blues, and hip-hop. A range of vocals – from harmonic singing to freestyle rapping to beatboxing — are backed by tight tunes from keyboards and human percussion.
Miranda’s best-known work, Hamilton, won 11 Tony Awards in 2016, the most ever for a musical. These awards included Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical, among others. Miranda also was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. That spells some fairly high expectations for all his follow-up projects.
Over the years, Venetian/Palazzo enjoyed success with Vegas-ized Broadway hits, including Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular (2006-2012), Jersey Boys (2008-2012), and Rock of Ages (2012-2016). Other shows at the twin resorts – including Nebulae: The LifeForce (2000), Sourire (2002), The Real Deal (2008), and Puppet Up! Uncensored (2016) – out-and-out tanked.
Opening night proved a resounding, sold-out success for Freestyle Love Supreme. However, it’s a given that Miranda’s addition to the cast of his own musicals will generate tremendous buzz. Whether that buzz can continue without his star power is something that remains to be seen.
Freestyle Love Supreme runs from 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 7 p.m. Sundays at the Venetian’s Summit Showroom. Tickets, starting at $57.45, are available at venetianlasvegas.com.
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