Broadway songsmiths from Irving Berlin to Frank Loesser and John Kander love a Hollywood gig, so maybe it’s no surprise that the composer-writer-star of the Main Stem’s biggest hit is also playing a small room in a galaxy far, far away. Lin-Manuel Miranda struck up a conversation with Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams during intermission of Miranda’s Hamilton on a night the star wasn’t performing in the title role. When it turned out that Abrams was looking for a composer to augment the legendary John Williams, who demurred from writing a new song for the so-called cantina scene, Miranda offered his services, Abrams told Jimmy Fallon on Monday’s Tonight show. Because apparently he has free time between writing Moana for Disney, trips to the White House, freestyling with Fallon and performing the title role in a Broadway musical seven or eight times a week. Here’s how Miranda, an inexhaustible Tweeter, described it:
This reminded me of a great Broadway story, recounted in As Thousands Cheer, Laurence Bergreen’s definitive biography of Irving Berlin. Annie Get Your Gun was being produced by Rodgers & Hammerstein and directed by Joshua Logan. As rehearsals loomed, Rodgers opined that the show needed a number putting a comic spin on the quarrelsome romantic leads — a “challenge song” as Rodgers put it.
“Of course!” Berlin replied. “Meeting over!” By the time Logan got back to his apartment a few minutes later, Berlin was on the phone croaking out “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”
“Where the hell did you write that?” the astonished Logan asked.
“In the taxicab,” Berlin crowed, never one to pass up an opportunity to prove his chops to Dick and Oscar. “I had to, didn’t I? We go into rehearsal Monday.”