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Streaming arts pick: ‘We Are Freestyle Love Supreme’

Lin-Manuel Miranda interviewed in "We Are Freestyle Love Supreme."
Before Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda was in an improvisational hip-hop group called Freestyle Love Supreme along with director Thomas Kail and performer Christopher Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Hulu)
(Bryant Fisher)

With the arts moving to online and streaming platforms, here’s a look at a weekly standout:

My pick: “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” a documentary about Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail’s freestyle hip hop group that shaped “Hamilton” and other Broadway works.

Why: “There’s a good chance no one will know who you are,” director Thomas Kail says to Lin-Manuel Miranda about 20 minutes into this documentary.

It’s 2008, long before “Hamilton,” and just before “In the Heights” opens on Broadway. When Kail says this to Miranda, their biggest claim to fame is Freestyle Love Supreme, their underground hip hop troupe that puts on shows in The Drama Book Shop basement.

Still, Freestyle Love Supreme is popular enough that in 2005, a documentary group starts following members Kail, Miranda, Christopher Jackson, James Monroe Iglehart, Anthony Veneziale, Utkarsh Ambudkar and others.

Members of the improv theater/hip-hop collective, Freestyle Love Supreme perform in 2019
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme performs at the Greenwich House Theater. (Photo courtesy of Hulu)
(Bryant Fisher)

The guys are all full of enthusiasm and hope as they beatbox on New York City sidewalks, joke around backstage and get invited to the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (Daveed Diggs from “Hamilton” is also in the troupe, but is not shown in the film.)

It’s a fascinating look at young creatives minds at work and how this group eventually shapes a lot of the entertainment we watch today (“In the Heights,” “Hamilton,” “Central Park”). But the documentary also shows how the relationships become strained and distant between the members who perform in “Hamilton” and those who do not.

The documentary also includes modern clips of Freestyle Love Supreme still performing its brand of improvisational theatrical hip hop all these years later, except unlike Kail predicted, we actually all do know Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Find it: “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” is streaming on Hulu.


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