CHICAGO (CBS) — Miguel Cervantes said when he got the call from his agent that “Hamilton” author and star Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted him to audition for Chicago’s show, he knew he had some big shoes to fill.
“When they said I got the part, my life changed,” he recalled. “It took a total left turn from a month prior from what I thought my life was going to be.”
Cervantes had appeared in several other stage productions like “American Idiot” and “If/Then,” but he said he’s never been in such a unique, diverse show like Hamilton.
“What Lin did, how he wrote this, the lyrics, using hip hop music. It’s almost so overwhelming to wrap by brain around,” he said. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever done. You have a new appreciation for hip hop and what it does. It’s a brand new way of telling a story and it’s genius.”
The story of America’s Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton has become a musical theater phenomenon, partly Cervantes said, because of its style, originality and its story telling of American history.
“To revisit it, this way, where young people and older people are sort of learning about this historical time and this historical event that we all kind of know about, and then translating into not only a hip hop universe, but real life,” Cervantes said. “These were real people making real decisions that happened to affect our country forever.”
Hamilton also tells the story of Eliza Shuyler Hamilton, Alexander’s wife, played by Ari Afsar.
“This is an educational tool for our youth,” she said.
Afsar said the show is not only diverse but also talks about the role of women and the issues they are still facing generations later.
“I think the reality is that people may remember maybe two women in 1776? Telling the perspective from her story is important,” Afsar said. “During the whole show, we feel Eliza is there for him, being a woman and being an aide, but she’s also able to step out and be her own and I think that’s the most powerful message for me is to show there are always powerful women.”
Two months into it’s indefinite Chicago stay, Cervantes said in 2016, life is imitating art, imitating life, which makes its run even more relevant.
“Lin wrote this show five years ago, and here it drops in 2016 when all these other things are happening. All the sudden our words, our message and the power of what he’s saying becomes a little more important,” Cervantes said.
With up to nine sold out shows a week, both Cervantes and Afsar said Chicago audiences have embraced them and the cast and they, in turn, have embraced their place in pop culture history.
“It reinforces how important a show like this is as an art piece, as a piece of theater, but also as a social message. A beacon of a message of hope, and change and progress and all these things they tried to do when they were trying to create our country and here we are in 2016, making decisions that are going to change our lives for the foreseeable future,” Cervantes said. “How could we know that Alexander Hamilton was coming up with all these things and here we are Hamilton The Musical talking about things that are happening right in front of our eyes. It’s a crazy time to be doing this show. I’m just so thankful to have a voice.”
The show is scheduled to run through Sept. 17 at the Private Bank Theater, but Cervantes said he’ll be in Chicago as long as audiences keep coming back.
Tickets are hard to come by, but there is a digital lottery, where people can enter for a chance to purchase last minute tickets.
Just like they have been doing in New York, a day-of-show lottery for every performance will take place. From that drawing, 44 tickets will be sold for every performance for $10 each. Locations in the theater will vary per performance.