Mi­randa brings ‘Hamil­ton’ to be­lea­guered Puerto Rico

Houston Chronicle - - NEWS MAKERS - By Michael Paul­son and Charo Hen­riquez

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Lin-Manuel Mi­randa only had to speak his char­ac­ter’s name — Alexan­der Hamil­ton — to bring the crowd to its feet.

It was Fri­day night here — the first per­for­mance, and the open­ing night, of a 17-day run of “Hamil­ton” in Puerto Rico — and as soon as the crowd caught sight of the show’s 38year-old cre­ator and star, it drenched him in ap­plause, forc­ing a mo­men­tary pause, the ac­tors frozen mid-scene while the pa­trons un­leashed a storm of ap­pre­ci­a­tion born, of course, of fan­dom but also of some­thing deeper.

“To­day Puerto Rico gave me more en­ergy than ever in my life in that mo­ment,” Mi­randa, speak­ing in Span­ish, told re­porters after the show. “I’ve never felt any­thing like that.”

“Hamil­ton” ar­rived in San Juan at a time when Puerto Rico is strug­gling — still re­cov­er­ing from the dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Maria in 2017, fac­ing chronic eco­nomic chal­lenges and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, and now con­fronting an out­break of vi­o­lence that claimed the life of a well-known trap singer Thurs­day.

Mi­randa, born and raised in New York City to par­ents from Puerto Rico, is de­voted to the is­land; he is hop­ing that the run of “Hamil­ton” here will call at­ten­tion to both its needs and its riches. Mul­ti­ple mem­bers of Con­gress are ex­pected to come to see the show while it’s here.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to come to Puerto Rico be­cause of ‘Hamil­ton’ and hope­fully spend a lot of money here,” he said. “But they’re also go­ing to see blue tarps, and they’re also go­ing to see how much work there is to be done.”

The San Juan run is be­ing staged at Cen­tro de Bel­las Artes Luis A. Ferré, a lo­cal per­form­ing arts venue, after the show’s pro­duc­ers de­cided at the last minute to re­lo­cate it from the Univer­sity of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras cam­pus, cit­ing con­cern about se­cu­rity in the event of protests.

There was one small rally out­side the show’s open­ing Fri­day night: About a dozen ad­vo­cates of state­hood for Puerto Rico gath­ered be­hind a ban­ner, hold­ing signs and shout­ing slo­gans. The pro­test­ers said they had no is­sues with “Hamil­ton” but were us­ing the oc­ca­sion to call at­ten­tion to their con­cerns.

The pro­duc­tion, a fundraiser, is ex­pected to gen­er­ate about $15 mil­lion for the Flam­boyan Arts Fund, a Mi­randa fam­ily ef­fort to sup­port Puerto Ri­can artists. The money is be­ing raised in part through the sale of sev­eral thou­sand tick­ets for $5,000 each; about a quar­ter of all the tick­ets are be­ing sold for $10 each.

At the Fri­day night open­ing, there were a few bold­faced names from the main­land, in­clud­ing tele­vi­sion pro­ducer Shonda Rhimes, mu­si­cian Quest­love and tele­vi­sion host Jimmy Fal­lon; a num­ber of Puerto Ri­can celebri­ties, in­clud­ing singer Lucecita Benítez, co­me­dian Ray­mond Ar­ri­eta and for­mer Miss Uni­verse Denise Quiñones; and Span­ish chef José An­drés, who was ac­tive in re­lief ef­forts here after the 2017 hur­ri­cane.

There were also “Hamil­ton” alumni, in­clud­ing Les­lie Odom Jr., who won a Tony as the orig­i­nal Aaron Burr, and a lot of peo­ple who played some part in the cre­ation of the show, in­clud­ing Ron Ch­er­now, the his­to­rian whose bi­og­ra­phy in­spired it.

There were also a lot of peo­ple who just wanted to see “Hamil­ton.”

“The fact that Lin-Manuel is Puerto Ri­can makes us all here so proud,” said Melissa González, a lawyer who got tick­ets a few days ago. She at­tended with her hus­band, Car­los Surillo, also a lawyer, who cited the im­por­tance of celebri­ties to Puerto Rico’s cause. “Fig­ures like Roberto Cle­mente, Raul Juliá and now Lin-Manuel have moved Puerto Rico for­ward,” he said.

Some pa­trons came from con­sid­er­ably farther away. Paul McQue, who is from Scot­land, said he had al­ready seen “Hamil­ton” once on Broad­way, three times in Chicago and nine times in Lon­don. But he had not yet seen Mi­randa play the lead role, so he came to San Juan.

After the show there was a party at Pop­u­lar Cen­ter, a bank­ing tower in San Juan’s fi­nan­cial dis­trict. There were typ­i­cal Puerto Ri­can foods — gan­d­ules (pi­geon peas), mor­cilla (blood sausage), tri­fongo (a mash of fried green and yel­low plan­tain with yuca) and tem­bleque (co­conut pud­ding) — and a cov­ers band (“Des­pac­ito,” of course, as well as “Bil­lie Jean”).

Be­hind the dance floor: a gi­ant il­lu­mi­nated ver­sion of the be­spoke icon of this brief run — a red-white-and-blue Puerto Ri­can flag with the sil­hou­ette of Alexan­der Hamil­ton, hand raised in the air, re­plac­ing one point of the flag’s star.

“Hamil­ton” is cur­rently the big­gest hit on Broad­way, gross­ing about $3 mil­lion a week. Since be­gin­ning per­for­mances in the sum­mer of 2015, it has brought in $466 mil­lion there.

But Broad­way is just one el­e­ment of the “Hamil­ton” em­pire. The tour that starts in San Juan is the sixth si­mul­ta­ne­ous pro­duc­tion of the show, which is also run­ning in New York, Chicago, Lon­don and in two other tour­ing pro­duc­tions. This new pro­duc­tion will move from Puerto Rico to San Fran­cisco for an ex­tended run there.

The Puerto Rico pro­duc­tion is the first to fea­ture Mi­randa in the ti­tle role since he wrapped up his run on Broad­way in July 2016. He is per­form­ing only in Puerto Rico; when the show moves to Cal­i­for­nia, an­other ac­tor will step into the role.

Erika P. Ro­driguez / New York Times

Lin-Manuel Mi­randa lifts the Puerto Ri­can flag as he plays the ti­tle role in “Hamil­ton” on the open­ing night of a 17-day run in San Juan on Fri­day. Mi­randa’s par­ents are from the is­land.

Car­los Giusti / As­so­ci­ated Press

Paul McQue of Scot­land wears a Puerto Ri­can hat with a Hamil­ton pin in San Juan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.