Pioneering Producer

Jill Furman ’97, founder of Jill Furman Productions, talks about her role in bringing the smash hit “Hamilton” to Broadway.

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New York Roots 

A native New Yorker, Jill Furman ’97 always wanted to be a producer. She grew up going to Broadway shows and discussing Variety with her investment banker father, who specialized in entertainment. After stints at New York talent agency ICM and various production companies, she associate-produced three plays, two of them on Broadway. “I love the family atmosphere of the theater world,” Furman says. “There is this feeling of let’s roll up our sleeves and put on a show.”

Broadway Calling

In 2003, Furman checked out an early iteration of a musical being performed in the basement of the Drama Book Shop in Midtown. Performer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda blew her away with rap-infused numbers set in a mostly Dominican neighborhood of New York City. “I had never heard rap in musical theater,” recalls Furman. “I had to get behind this person so that more people would experience his genius.”

With Furman as co-lead producer, Miranda’s first musical, In the Heights, debuted on Broadway in 2008 and won four Tony Awards and a Grammy Award. A couple of years later, not long after Furman received the Robert Whitehead Award for Outstanding Achievement in Commercial Theatre Producing, she was quick to see the potential of the rising star’s next musical, Hamilton, which she produced with two partners and the Public Theater. “I knew it was going to work,” says Furman, “but its success is a tsunami.” 

Inspiring New Yorkers — and Everybody Else, Too

Arriving on Broadway last year with advance ticket sales of $32 million, Hamilton tells the rags-to-riches story — mostly through rap and hip-hop — of the United States’ first Treasury secretary. “I think the show is inspiring many more people to take chances,” Furman says. Thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, beginning this spring, 20,000 New York City high school students will get to see Hamilton in the next year. “To me, this is the most important thing we’ve done,” says Furman. “It looks like Hamilton will have a long-term ripple effect on Broadway, theater in general, and arts education. To know that I had a role in bringing the show to Broadway is thrilling and fills me with pride.”

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