‘Hamil­ton’ in Puerto Rico

Lin-Manuel Mi­randa brings his mega-mu­si­cal to his par­ents’ trou­bled home­land

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Jes­sica Gelt

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — LinManuel Mi­randa cried as he grasped the hands of his “Hamil­ton” costars dur­ing cur­tain call on open­ing night here, later rais­ing a Puerto Ri­can flag and wav­ing it high be­fore wrap­ping it around his shoul­ders and ex­it­ing stage right.

The emo­tional mo­ment came nearly three hours after Mi­randa, the mu­si­cal’s 38-year-old star and cre­ator, first ap­peared on­stage and stated his name as Alexan­der Hamil­ton, bring­ing the 2,000-seat house to its feet for a pro­longed stand­ing ova­tion less than a minute into the show.

This first per­for­mance of a planned 17-show run marked a high point for is­land res­i­dents still work­ing through the dif­fi­cult, of­ten heart-wrench­ing process of re­cov­er­ing from cat­a­clysmic Hur­ri­cane Maria in 2017. The pro­longed po­lit­i­cal and so­cial fall­out has in­cluded a rise in vi­o­lent crime that was high­lighted the night be­fore the open­ing of “Hamil­ton” here with the killing of pop­u­lar trap singer Kevin Fret.

“Things have not been the same after the hur­ri­cane,” said Yolanda Hi­dalgo, a doc­tor from Aguadilla who came to “Hamil­ton” with her mother, Yolanda Her­nan­dez, a nurse. “It has been more than a year, and there are still so many trou­bles — towns that have not re­cov­ered, peo­ple still with­out jobs who lost houses, who lost ev­ery­thing. And there is a lot of sick­ness.”

Hi­dalgo said she has no words for how grate­ful she is for Mi­randa’s pres­ence in Puerto Rico and for the show’s pledge to give 100% of this run’s prof­its to the is­land through the Mi­randa fam­ily’s Flam­boyan Foun­da­tion, which is ded­i­cated to help­ing with the re­cov­ery process largely through arts and cul­ture.

Open­ing night drew a giddy au­di­ence of is­land res­i­dents mixed with a healthy help­ing of tourists from the main­land. Dur­ing the up­roar­i­ous cur­tain call, the au­di­ence rang out with shouts of “Puerto Rico” and “Vega Alta,” the nearby town where Mi­randa’s fa­ther is from. Pride in the show, and the man be­hind it, was pal­pa­ble as fans

lined up for “Hamil­ton” mugs, bean­ies, hats, tote bags, tees and hood­ies.

Mi­randa was born and raised in New York but he spent sum­mers on the is­land as a child and has main­tained a bond with is­land life and cul­ture. Long be­fore his “Hamil­ton” scored 11 Tony Awards and be­came Broad­way his­tory, Mi­randa fa­mously pulled the Puerto Ri­can flag out of his pocket at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall in 2008 after win­ning the Tony for orig­i­nal score for “In the Heights.”

“That day, Lin be­came a Puerto Ri­can hero be­cause that was the day that he said, ‘We mat­ter and you mat­ter, and I am one of you and we are here to­gether,’” said the lead pro­ducer of “Hamil­ton,” Jef­frey Seller, be­fore the show. “And therein lies the seed of why we are here to­day.”

Mi­randa’s in­ter­est in bring­ing the pro­duc­tion to the is­land pre­dates Hur­ri­cane Maria by a year. His mis­sion changed after the storm, Puerto Rico’s worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ter re­sult­ing in what the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has es­ti­mated to be nearly 3,000 deaths.

“Puerto Ri­cans are the most re­silient peo­ple on the face of the Earth,” Mi­randa said in a post-show press con­fer­ence at the venue, Cen­tro de Bel­las Artes Luis A. Ferré. “Name any other city in the world that would sur­vive this long with­out power and the re­sources that any Amer­i­can state would get in the wake of a hur­ri­cane.”

He added that peo­ple are com­ing to Puerto Rico be­cause of the show, and he hopes they will spend a lot of money while they are on the is­land — and see just how much re­cov­ery work needs to be done.

He cited the blue tarps that are one of the most per­sis­tent sights on the is­land. In smaller towns, they form seas of blue vis­i­ble to cars pass­ing by on the free­way, the plas­tic cover­ings pro­tect­ing homes that have lost all or part of their roofs.

“I lost my job after Maria, so I started driv­ing Uber,” said Julissa Miedes, who at­tended the open­ing-night party with one of the show’s car­pen­ters, who in­vited her after she gave him a ride. “It’s been a tough year after the hur­ri­cane, but I’m op­ti­mistic.”

Ear­lier in the evening, Hamil­ton biog­ra­pher Ron Ch­er­now, whose work was the in­spi­ra­tion for Mi­randa’s mu­si­cal, noted that the found­ing fa­ther orig­i­nally was from the Caribbean.

“He came to Amer­ica, and the rest is his­tory,” Ch­er­now said at in­ter­mis­sion. “Lin’s par­ents came from Puerto Rico, so I feel that it’s po­etic jus­tice — the idea of the ‘Hamil­ton’ mu­si­cal com­ing back to the Caribbean.”

Ch­er­now was just one of many rec­og­niz­able faces at open­ing night, which also was at­tended by Jimmy Fal­lon, Quest­love, Shonda Rhimes and “Hamil­ton” cast alumni in­clud­ing Les­lie Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award for play­ing Aaron Burr.

Luis A. Fer­rao, the chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Puerto Rico’s Rio Piedras cam­pus, where “Hamil­ton” was orig­i­nally sched­uled to be staged, was there de­spite the sting of the show’s de­ci­sion to re­lo­cate to Bel­las Artes be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity of cam­pus protests. The Flam­boyan Foun­da­tion has given $1 mil­lion to­ward the post-hur­ri­cane restora­tion of the his­toric 1939 Teatro UPR, so that it would be ready for “Hamil­ton.” But that wasn’t enough to al­lay con­cerns about se­cu­rity and the specter of un­rest.

Re­gard­less of the venue change, “Hamil­ton” in Puerto Rico still is ex­pected to gen­er­ate $15 mil­lion for the is­land, Seller said, with some of that rev­enue com­ing from about 3,000 ben­e­fit tick­ets priced at $5,000 each. (The pro­duc­tion said it has kept thou­sands of seats at $10 for lo­cals.)

“All of our roy­alty par­tic­i­pants — au­thor, di­rec­tor, chore­og­ra­pher, de­sign­ers, pro­duc­ers — are waiv­ing our roy­al­ties, so all of those dol­lars are go­ing straight to is­land ini­tia­tives,” Seller said.

At a rau­cous after-party at a mas­sive bank com­plex, Mi­randa and the cast min­gled with guests sip­ping Don Hamil­ton Old Fash­ioned cock­tails and snack­ing on lo­cal braised pork cheeks and blood sausage.

Mi­randa ap­peared on­stage next to a cover band, once again ex­press­ing his pro­found thanks to those who brought “Hamil­ton” to Puerto Rico as well as to is­land res­i­dents for their gra­cious re­cep­tion.

“It’s not ev­ery day you get to bring ev­ery­one you love to the is­land you love most in the world,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

Gla­dys Vega Getty Images for "Hamil­ton"

A CUR­TAIN CALL for “Hamil­ton” cre­ator-star Lin-Manuel Mi­randa in San Juan on Fri­day, part of a char­ity run to aid on­go­ing Hur­ri­cane Maria re­cov­ery ef­forts.

Car­los Giusti As­so­ci­ated Press

LES­LIE ODOM JR., who played Aaron Burr on Broad­way, greets theater­go­ers on open­ing night.

Gla­dys Vega Getty Images for "Hamil­ton"

LIN-MANUEL MI­RANDA, cen­ter, with cast of “Hamil­ton” at after-party Fri­day in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Car­los Giusti As­so­ci­ated Press

THEATER­GO­ERS line up Fri­day for the first of a planned 17-show char­ity run of the mu­si­cal, which is ex­pected to gen­er­ate an es­ti­mated $15 mil­lion wind­fall.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.