SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — With Lin-Manuel Miranda once again as its star, the Broadway hit “Hamilton” opened for business in Puerto Rico this weekend — that business being the bolstering of the hopes and finances of a beleaguered U.S. territory mired in debt and still reeling from the devastation wreaked 16 months ago by Hurricane Maria.
The first performance of the Tony-winning musical was Friday night at the Centro de Bellas Artes in the heart of the island’s capital city. Here was a show arriving not merely to entertain, but also to serve a humanitarian mission: raising money for the relief effort. But the quest was also to draw the world’s attention to an American outpost that has long felt neglected by the country that owns it, and especially so in the aftermath of a disaster that traumatized the island.
Miranda’s mission achieved an emotional crescendo as a new “Hamilton” touring production — the musical’s sixth incarnation — celebrated its official opening to the hurrahs of an exuberant sellout crowd. When the actor made his entrance during the introductory number, “Alexander Hamilton,” it was the audience that stopped the show, with a prolonged ovation. During the curtain call almost three hours later, Miranda once again brought down the house, with a teary speech that ended with him pulling a large Puerto Rican flag from under his costume and holding it aloft.
“I just love the island so much,” he said during a press conference after the show, “and I just want it to be proud of me.”
The 23-performance visit of “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico was indeed a labor of love for Miranda and his father, Luis Miranda, a Puerto Rico native. They prevailed upon the producers and investors to donate all of the proceeds of the San Juan engagement, after operating expenses, to a fund for struggling Puerto Rican artists and arts institutions. The fund stands to receive $15 million from the “Hamilton” run, according to Luis Miranda.