Miguel Cervantes, currently starring in the lead role in Chicago’s production of “Hamilton,” remembers going to an audition for the show straight from the hospital.
His daughter, Adelaide, who later would be diagnosed with epilepsy, was being tested to find out what was wrong.
The audition was an emotional one for Cervantes, as he had to sing “Dear Theodosia,” a song in which the two main characters, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, sing to their own respective son and daughter.
It was his daughter, Cervantes told an audience at the Woodstock Opera House on Thursday, who kept him grounded during that audition.
“She made me realize what was happening in this [audition room] was not the most important thing that’s happened in my life,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes came to the Woodstock Opera House as a part of the “Creative Living Speaker Series,” where he recounted pivotal moments of his life and career. Cervantes, originally from Dallas, Texas, had a lot of twists and turns in his career. He opened a “car and truck accessories” store with a friend, acted in national tours, worked on Broadway and started a baseball organization for children before landing his title role in Chicago’s production of “Hamilton.”
Cervantes also talked about his 3-year-old daughter, who died in October. Since then, Cervantes said he has had “amazing” support from people. One woman attended the production on a Wednesday night in October after Adelaide died. The woman, who was planning on going to Cervantes’ original talk at the Opera House the next day – before it was rescheduled to Thursday – sent him a letter and poem that was “beautiful,” Cervantes said.
Since his daughter’s epilepsy diagnosis, Cervantes said he and his wife, Kelly, have become advocates to raise awareness about the disease and research for it. This includes becoming part of the organization Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy.
When it comes to performing in “Hamilton,” Cervantes said he sees how much the musical means to audiences.
“The social, political messages that it’s sending, not to mention the message it’s sending to young people about boundaries and race and inclusion and all of the things that are important for young people to understand, should not be holding them back,” he said.
Cervantes also performed several songs, including some from “Hamilton” and one he wrote for Adelaide.
Before performing “The Schuyler Sisters,” he brought audience member Joe Schmidt onstage. Schmidt, a Prairie Ridge High School student from Crystal Lake, has seen “Hamilton” three times in Chicago.
“[Cervantes] has been amazing each time,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s grandmother, Carol Zalewski, is a season-pass holder for the Creative Living Speaker Series.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking to get up on stage,” Schmidt said, adding that his grandmother encouraged him to participate.
“He’s a real person,” Schmidt said. “There’s more to him than when he’s on stage. He’s really nice.”