NY1's Frank DiLella is covering the opening of "Hamilton" in Puerto Rico. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will star in the title role for the first time since he left the Broadway show in 2016. The play will run for three weeks and will raise money for a Miranda initiative to help sustain and enhance the arts in Puerto Rico.
Sunday, 1/13/19, 9:30 p.m.
Hello from 34,000 feet in the air - here’s my final entry - "one last time," if you will...
It’s 9:30 p.m. on Sunday night and I'm on my way back home to New York City.
Let’s go back to where I left off. Yesterday we drove about 40 minutes from San Juan to Vega Alta, the hometown of Lin’s father, Luis Miranda. Vega Alta is where Lin used to spend his summers as a kid. It's where he learned how to flex his creative muscles. Lin's dad told me Lin used to make home videos with a camcorder that his grandfather would borrow from the local bank. He would make amateur movies starring the residents of Vega Alta. Fun fact - the character of Daniela originally played by Andrea Burns in Lin’s first Broadway musical, the Tony-winning "In The Heights," is from Vega Alta.
Once we arrived to our location, I did an interview with Luis. When I asked what Friday night meant to him - Lin bringing "Hamilton" to the island - he said that it meant more than the opening of "Hamilton" on Broadway. He said he compares it to Lin making his Broadway debut and opening "In the Heights."
Once we wrapped the interview, Luis and Lin's mother Luz showed me around the museum that they constructed in Vega Alta. Included on display in the museum are more than a dozen of Lin's awards, like his "Hamilton" Tony - not to mention a ton of fan art and Lin's key to the town given to him by the mayor of Vega Alta.
After that, Luis and Luz gave me a tour of their plaza right outside of the museum. The plaza features a bunch of kiosks, including a place that sells Lin's official merchandise and a food stand named after Lin's grandmother, Eva.
Also in the plaza is a beautiful mural with an image of Lin's grandfather, Lin and Lin as "Alexander Hamilton."
On the outside of the plaza, there's another mural that’s a tribute to "In the Heights. It’s a Puerto Rican flag with a silhouette of Lin as the character Usnavi.
The one thing that I admire so much about the Miranda family is their love and support for one another. I asked Luis, what’s your secret to raising two incredible individuals (Lin and his sister Luz)? He said Lin's mom was the dreamer and he was the realist - you do the math.
Today (Sunday) we finished filming our show in Old San Juan. I have to say - Puerto Rico is one gorgeous island. The history, the architecture, the landscape - absolutely breathtaking.
I did my final live shot outside the theater at around 5:30.
Today, more than two dozen elected officials attended the matinee.
According to sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided not to attend due to the government shutdown. But the elected officials who did attend said they flew down to see the performance and stand in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico.
Lin and his father, who is active in Democratic Party politics, have made it their goal to raise $15 million for the island. In addition, with this production, they’re hoping to boost tourism almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
I spotted New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez after the performance.
Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democratic state senator from Florida, had this to say:
"It is very moving so many members of Congress made their way here to Puerto Rico to send a signal - we have fellow American citizens, with everything that’s happening, many of whom are veterans and have contributed to this country and are being left behind. They're not second-class citizens. They deserve respect, and frankly, it's moving a lot of people to tears knowing that members of Congress are here and sending that message, making it loud and clear."
Once "Hamilton" wraps its run in Puerto Rico at the end of the month, the tour will continue on to San Francisco sans Lin.
I have to give a shoutout to my executive producer Kevin Dugan and my photographer Adam Verity for their hard work and support on this trip. I could not have done it without them.
I hope you’ll check out my "Hamilton" in Puerto Rico special airing this weekend on "On Stage," on Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Viva Puerto Rico!
See you at the theater,
P.S. - remember when I mentioned "NY1 the Musical" by Lin-Manuel Miranda? He said he’s going to do it. He has actors in mind for Pat Kiernan and Roger Clark so far - Aaron Tveit is Pat and Josh Gad is Roger. He said I will be playing myself. Lin - consider this my official "yes" - I'm in!
Saturday, 1/12/19, 11:33 a.m.
Good morning from San Juan!
I hear it’s freezing in NYC - definitely not cold here - the sun is out and it is hot!
We had a very productive day yesterday. First, kicking off the morning sitting down with “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. We met up with Lin in Dorado Beach - about 30 minutes from where the show is playing. He spoke about how this is truly a full circle moment - bringing his masterwork to the island. I also got him to open up about his next project – ‘NY1 the musical’. More on that later.
Opening “Hamilton” down here on January 11 was symbolic for a few reasons. First, it’s Alexander Hamilton’s Birthday. Also, 7 years ago on the same day, Lin debuted “Hamilton Mixtape” at Lincoln Center. “Mixtape” was the original name of his project before it morphed into the masterpiece that is “Hamilton.”
Following the interview, we headed back to San Juan where I caught up with Rick Negron. Rick is a Broadway and TV actor who is originally from San Juan. He’s playing King George in the musical. We had batidos, also known as fruit milkshakes in The Fruit Market Plaza and he told me how he grew up going to this market with his grandfather. He got emotional talking about doing “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico - and said that this is the highlight of his career thus far.
When we wrapped with Rick, we went back to our hotel to get ready for the big night. The opening night curtain was at 6:30 p.m. We got to the theater and I caught up with lead producer Jeffrey Seller. Seller told me doing “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico was a no brainer. He said, “when Lin called he was immediately on board.”
The audience was peppered with performers from the original company of “Hamilton.” Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., Ariana DeBose and Seth Stewart were all in attendance.
I sat next to Tony winner Cady Huffman, from the “The Producers” and let’s just say we both needed tissues by the end of the performance.
Ariana DeBose - who played “the bullet” in the original Broadway company of “Hamilton” said it was hard to sit still watching the show. She said her muscle memory was kicking in and her girlfriend had to tell her to stop singing throughout the musical.
Lin got a standing ovation the moment he walked on to the stage for the opening number. And at the end of the show he gave a heartfelt curtain speech and he brought his Dad, Luis Miranda on stage to thank him for helping him with bringing “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico. Lin walked off stage waving the island’s flag with pride.
It’s about 11:00 AM island time now and we’re heading to Vega Alta. That’s the town where Lin’s father was born and raised and it’s where Lin spent his summers as a kid.
To be continued...
Thursday, 1/10/19, 2:51 p.m.
Greetings from San Juan, Puerto Rico! I arrived late last night from covering FOX's upcoming live staging of "Rent" in Los Angeles, California (January 27 - can't wait!) for the opening of "Hamilton" on the island. Yes - Lin-Manuel Miranda is bringing his Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork to the Caribbean for a limited three-week engagement.
After I landed, I went to meet my crew (Kevin Dugan - Executive Producer and Adam Verity - Photographer) at the Budget Rental Car Center. As we were waiting for our car, the agent mentioned to Kevin, "We hear Obama and Oprah are coming in for 'Hamilton.'" And after doing a little digging around this morning - yes, it's true - I understand President Obama, the Clintons, Oprah and Nancy Pelosi will be attending the show at some point during its run here in San Juan.
"Hamilton" opens tomorrow night, with Miranda reprising his performance as the title character. This is his first time back in the role since he left the show on Broadway in July of 2016.
I think it's important to note that this production is a homecoming of sorts for Miranda and his family. His father was born and raised in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. That's where Lin spent his summers as a kid. In 2010, Lin brought his Tony-winning musical "In The Heights" to San Juan.
The three-week run of "Hamilton" will raise money for flamboyanartsfund.org, an initiative set up by Miranda and his family to help sustain and enhance the arts in Puerto Rico. Lin also decided to bring "Hamilton" down here to raise awareness and boost tourism after Hurricane Maria devastated the island back in 2017.
It wasn't all smooth sailing getting this show ready for opening night. The musical was originally set to begin previews at the University of Puerto Rico on January 8, but due to security concerns, the producers of "Hamilton" decided to move the musical to a different venue, the Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferrè Theatre. The new building is a proper Equity house, and it's the theater where Lin performed "In The Heights" in 2010.
This morning, I was on "Mornings on 1" with Pat Kiernan setting the scene from outside the theater. I have to admit - high 70s to kick off a Thursday morning in January makes for a nice out-of-office work environment.
This afternoon, I'm meeting with the executive director of The Flamboyan Foundation, Carlos Rodriguez. Tonight, I'll be attending the final dress rehearsal of "Hamilton" with my crew.
To be continued - from "The Room - no, Island - Where It's Happening..."