Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has had a pretty full plate of late, between starring in his hit Broadway show, attending the slew of award ceremonies where he picked up honors, writing songs for Oscar-nominated Disney adventure Moana, and starring in a Mary Poppins sequel. But amid all this, there were incredible opportunities Miranda had to turn down. Sadly, one of these was penning lyrics for an honest-to-Miss-Bliss Broadway musical inspired by the hit Saturday morning teen dramedy Saved By the Bell.
Last weekend on the Sirius XM talk show It’s Erik Nagel, I got the details on this dizzying possibility as Nagel, myself and our co-hosts Bryan Gittleman and Matt Cipoletti spoke with Saved By the Bell writer and producer Peter Engel, who was promoting his new book I Was Saved By The Bell: Stories of Life, Love, And Dreams That Do Come True.
In a 30-minute interview—which you can hear on Sirius On Demand or our podcast—Engel told us, “I’m writing right now the Broadway musical, a celebration of the ’90s.” Naturally, we geeked out. (It is our way.) But apparently our reaction didn’t compare to Miranda’s, who met Engel after the legendary TV producer attended one of his performances on Broadway. Engel told us:
One of the biggest (Saved By The Bell) fans of all time is Lin-Manuel Miranda. So I wanted him to do the music for the show. So, we got in touch. Next thing I know, last June I’m in the sixth row on the aisle watching him in Hamilton. Which was spectacular.
I meet him on the stage afterwards…I [did one cameo on ‘Bell’ for] a two-parter in Palm Springs, and Lin-Manuel comes walking towards me with his eyes wide-open and arms wide-open, and with the voice I used, he goes, ‘When I make this putt, you’ll owe me $1,000!’ I said him, ‘You probably rehearsed that all day,’ he says, ‘Three days.’
Very on brand, LMM. Very on brand.
And he says to me, ‘You really inspired me.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘You got the first diversity award from the Television Academy for casting colorblind.’ I said, ‘Indeed, I did.’ He said, ‘You inspired me.’ I said, ‘Look, you’re a Puerto Rican Hamilton, you’ve got a Black George Washington.’ He said, ‘You inspired me that I could do it.’ With that, I hugged him, and I said, ‘In that case, I’m really proud of you.’ And he started to cry, ‘You’re making me cry on my own stage!’ I realize I’d impacted him like I did my own children. That show must have done something.
Sadly for Hamilfans, Miranda will not be penning the Saved The Bell musical. But good news for fans of the ’90s, Engel’s going the jukebox route of shows like Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys or On Your Feet! “We own a bunch of songs,” Engel explained, “like ‘I’m So Excited,’ ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,’ and ‘Friends Forever.’ So we’re going to use existing great music from the ’90s.” He also confirmed Zack Morris’s massive, cutting-edge mobile phone will make an appearance.
Engel is also the genius who wrote the iconic “I’m so excited episode,” which he confirmed was originally penned to be about amphetamines, not caffeine pills. But the network put the kibosh on that.
“I didn’t write the 17 ‘Jesse’s,” Engel quipped, recalling how Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Elizabeth Berkley were so genuinely shaken up during shooting that the scene took on a life of its own. “That scene is going to be in the Broadway musical,” Engel confirmed “but I’m writing it with only three Jesses.”
Kristy Puchko can be heard on It’s Erik Nagel weekends 6pmET/3pmPT on ‘Faction Talk’ Sirius 206 / XM 103 across the US and Canada.