Jeffrey Seller first came across Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2004 at an early reading of what would become the Tony-winning In The Heights. Seller attended the reading at the urging of his then-producing partner Kevin McCollum, but he knew he had found an artist worth investing in past this single show.
Moments after winning his second Tony for producing Miranda’s work (making Hamilton his fourth Best Musical Tony overall), Playbill.com asked Seller what it was about Miranda in 2004 that made Seller want to begin a lasting partnership with the then-novice writer.
“When I fell in love with musical theatre, it was because I was constantly hearing a sound that I had never heard before,” responded Seller, his exuberance ceding to wistful nostalgia. “When I heard Evita for the first time when I was 15 years old, I had never heard a score sound like that before. When I heard Jonathan Larson present for the first time ‘Light My Candle’ in Rent, I had never heard a sound like that in a theatre before. And when Lin played at our first reading of In The Heights the theme, the opening song from In The Heights, I had never heard anything sound like that before. And I’m always looking to surprise my ears and to find music that makes me feel a whole new feeling in a whole new way.”
This time around, Hamilton was that sound.
Though methodical and contemplative in his work, Seller trusts his gut. He embraces his role as a producer, a shepherd. “We believe in the artist,” he said. “[Lead producers] Sandy [Jacobs], Jill [Furman] and I champion Lin, and when Lin says he wants to do something we say, ‘Yes.’ It’s not a question of, ‘Do I like that idea? Is that idea going to sell tickets?’ It’s ‘If you’re going down that road, we’re going with you.’”
That instinct to lead by following has positioned Seller to produce five Tony-winning shows—including Rent, Avenue Q, Private Lives and Miranda’s works—the most recent hit revival of West Side Story, the cult hit [title of show] and Rajiv Joseph’s groundbreaking Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo, among others.
Still, Hamilton defines a singular experience. “I am filled with joy at the most extraordinary year one could ever ask for in the theatre,” he said. “To have started the season in July and to have ended it here in June has been the most wonderful ride a producer, an artist, an actor, a stagehand, a musician could have ever dreamed for.”