It turns out British audiences giggle way more at sexual innuendo
When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s American history musical Hamilton arrived on Broadway in 2015, it quickly became theater’s biggest smash hit in years. Somehow, it’s gotten even bigger since then. Hamilton has now expanded overseas to London, where there’s an ongoing production at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It’s a little funny to imagine Hamilton playing in London, though, considering the play is steeped in the revolutionary fervor of the American War for Independence against the British.
But when Miranda appeared on The Late Show Tuesday night, he told Stephen Colbert that the biggest difference in how U.K. audiences received the play had more to do with sex than sovereignty.
“At first they were all like, ‘We don’t know American history, we don’t how it will play.’ I was like, ‘We don’t know American history! You’ll be fine!'” Miranda said. “But the biggest difference actually is weird and surprising: They’re super hung-up about sex, the audiences giggle at sex stuff. There’s a song called ‘Wait For It’ and there’s a line that has never gotten a reaction in the United States ever. It’s Burr talking about how he’s sleeping with a married woman. So the lyric is, ‘Theodosia writes me a letter every day, I’m keeping her bed warm while her husband away.'”
After reciting the lyric, Miranda pointed to the audience and said, “See, you’re dead inside! You did not laugh!” Not so in the U.K.: “When they sing that in London, it gets this huge reaction. It’s super Eric Idle wink-wink nudge-nudge. It’s really funny.”
As Colbert pointed out, Aaron Burr is not quite the villain of Hamilton so much as the romantic anti-hero. The play’s true villain is King George, who is played like a goofy, obsessed ex-boyfriend of America. Luckily, the British have a deep and rich tradition of mocking their royals.
“I was a little nervous because I sat next to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. That’s his sixth great-grandpa!” Miranda said. “He’s a direct descendant, and we’re sitting in a theater named after his fourth great-grandma. But he married into the family, he married an American, and she’d seen the show before so it went really well. They dig it. Helen Mirren was actually one of the first people to see Hamilton, she saw a really early preview at the Public, and I said, ‘How do you think this is gonna play?’ She was like, ‘Aw, we love it when you take the p—.'”
According to both Colbert and Miranda himself, the playwright has a pretty terrible Mirren impression, but the point stands.
Watch the full interview above.