Miguel Cervantes talks ‘Hamilton,’ the Broadway shutdown, the ‘isolation 10’ and life under lockdown in Chicago

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CHICAGO — After more than three years in the Chicago company of “Hamilton,” Miguel Cervantes moved to Broadway to play Alexander Hamilton in the hit Lin-Manuel Miranda musical there. He began his new gig March 3. On March 11, “Hamilton” shut down along with the rest of Broadway and Cervantes returned to Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood to rejoin his wife, Kelly, and their son, Jackson. On Sunday morning, he talked about his life over the last few weeks.

Q: How many Broadway performances did you actually get to do?

A: Ten! I still had boxes of stuff from Chicago all over my dressing room. The cast had been going through a lot of changes over the last six months, and I was kind of the last piece. It was feeling great. I was showing everyone what I had been doing in Chicago. My voice felt great because I had been getting those weeks of rest. Now I am going to be getting a lot more weeks of rest.

Q: What were the last days like for you?

They had already announced that no one but the cast would be allowed on stage, or backstage. And they had stopped the stage door greetings. On that last Wednesday, we had done an #EduHam in the afternoon and I had been talking to the hair and wardrobe people and saying it felt like we were not going to remain open for very long. I have a TV in my dressing room and at intermission I was watching the NBA talking about shutting down, and then the NCAA was getting involved. I went out for the second act and thought, wow, things were going crazy. And then Tom Hanks happened. I had just come off from doing “It’s Quiet Uptown” and I said to Daniel Breaker, who plays Aaron Burr, “Dude, I don’t think we’re coming back tomorrow.” That night, I went to the house of a friend of mine who is in “Beetlejuice.” And I said, “who are we that we think we are so special that we are going to be able to perform?” The next day, Broadway closed and I changed my flight and came back to Chicago.

Q: When do you think “Hamilton” will start up again?

Who knows? Clearly, April 11 is not going to happen. Is May? June? July? I can’t wrap my head around it. Maybe July 1 will be a possibility. Maybe there we will be a test we will be able to take. Maybe the audience will all wear masks. We just don’t know.

Q: And there is no social distancing for actors.

Correct. I kiss two different women in the show. And even if you do everything you possible can in the theater, people still have to come to work and go home.

Q: You will be back?

Our situation at “Hamilton” is singular in that we are almost definitely going to come back. We are privileged. So many of our friends in the theater didn’t get to open, will never get to open or were only open for a little while. We will have to take care of our community.

Q: What have you been doing since you got back to Chicago?

We have these “Hamilton” check-ins with Lin and Tommy (Kail), our director. They are on FaceTime, checking in how we all are doing, and you’ve got 50 people chiming in. Those are great. Then Kelly and I are tag-teaming on Jackson’s school. I send all the props in the world to people who are still trying to work while dealing with math problems they have not thought about in 20 years. And I pick up my guitar and noodle around once in a while.

We feel oddly relieved and guilty and sad that Adelaide is no longer with us. We think a lot about other parents who have special-needs kids and Kelly is checking in with a lot of folks. It is important they do not get lost in all of this.

Q: And you’ve been working with Broadway in Chicago to help get an online audience for high school kids?

Yes. You know, actors. Athletes. So many kids are not getting to do something that they worked long and hard for this year. We just want to shine a light on people who can’t do their thing this year — give them a chance to perform in front of other people, maybe even more people on Instagram than would have been there in real life. They get to be seen and be heard.

Q: And they will be fun to watch.

We all need to take a break from CNN. Seeing people smiling and laughing is very important right now. I sometimes want to crawl into a hole and stew, so it’s good for me to watch a talented kid sing. It helps me remember there is life outside of the house. I heard this girl doing “I am waiting for life to begin” (the song “Waiting for Life”) from “Once On This Island,” and I thought “Yes! That is exactly what we all are doing.”

New York magazine was doing a photo shoot and they wanted some Broadway people to get all dressed up and then just sit on the couch. I said fine, and that was the first time I had put on some pants that didn’t have a stretch waist for a while. OK. The “isolation 10.” Gotta keep moving. Gotta keep reminding people that we gotta keep moving.

Q: Once you’re back, everything in “Hamilton” will have a new meaning. We all have a new understanding about how nothing is inevitable. And that crises can explode.

Right. In my mind, I was waiting for the election in America, for that to happen. But now we realize better that the characters in “Hamilton” were often scared and isolated, and that they were all sometimes sheltered at home fearing what was happening. There were leaders bumbling and fumbling around back then, too, and some of them turned out to be great and some of them not so great at all.

For more information on #AroundBroadwayIn80Days, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com


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