Have you ever been in the room where it happens? The actual room where Broadway musicals happen?
Imagine walking into that room. Now imagine seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda sitting there next to other iconic theater legends, waiting for you to begin your audition. It’s the biggest job interview of your life.
You start sweating. You get this random twitch. Dry mouth — you get the driest mouth ever. You forget all your lines.
All of the above would happen to anyone. Except for Miguel Cervantes.
At the very moment of his audition, he was thinking of another room.
The birth of his daughter Adelaide in 2015 brought indescribable joy to the Cervantes family.
At that time, Miguel had starred in several Broadway shows, including “If/Then,” “American Idiot,” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” His wife Kelly was working successfully as an NYC event planner. Everything was going as planned for the young family.
But then, Adelaide started to get sick. Doctors couldn’t properly diagnose what was going on with her at first. Miguel — who was booking fewer and fewer auditions — decided to step away from theater to focus on taking care of Adelaide and his son, Jackson, while trying his hand at other business opportunities.
“I’m done with theater, unless Lin-Manuel Miranda calls me,” Cervantes recalls telling his friends. But then, Miranda called.
On the same day Adelaide had just been hooked up to a myriad of test machines, Miranda called Cervantes to come audition in the final callback to become Alexander Hamilton. He had to leave one room for another.
“Half of my brain was over there wondering what’s going to happen back at the hospital. The other half was … auditioning for the biggest show and the biggest role ever,” Cervantes says.
Spoiler alert: He crushed it. Miguel Cervantes is Chicago’s Alexander Hamilton. He credits his worry about Adelaide for helping to land the role.
He didn’t have the dry mouth, the sweat, the random twitches brought about by nervousness. Even legendary theater producer Oskar Eustis seemed to notice something in Cervantes’ face, in his demeanor and body during his audition. Cervantes had only one thought going through his mind: “This is an errand. I’ve got to run this errand so I can get back to the hospital to my daughter,” he recalls. “And I wasn’t overwhelmed.”
As he takes the stage each night as Hamilton, Cervantes recognizes this role gives him the opportunity to help his daughter and other children like her.
Since moving to Chicago, Kelly and Miguel haven’t throw away their shot at making a huge difference for children with epilepsy like Adelaide, who was diagnosed with infantile spasms — one of the rarer forms of childhood epilepsy that can have serious long-term consequences.
Kelly reached out to Chicago-based Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and together they launched a successful fundraising campaign. This included a raffle of Hamilton-themed prizes, like the chance to go caroling with the cast.
The support from the Hamilton community was nothing short of incredible, said Cervantes. “When I asked who [of the cast] was coming with me, who wanted to be a part of this, everyone, everyone was willing to do it, and as incredibly talented people they are all ready to share it and help the cause in any way they can,” he says.
The Hamilton world has supported several other causes along the way as well, from Miranda’s work with Planned Parenthood, to Javier Muñoz’s work with STOMP Out Bullying, and the company’s work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
“I know how lucky I am to be able to use this platform for so much good,” Miguel says of the opportunity to help find a cure.
“My daughter’s fight is the most important part of my life, and Hamilton is the vehicle that allows me to lead that charge. My daughter is absolutely why I was able to get here, and now Hamilton is helping us to get where we need to go.”
Every night Miguel Cervantes gets to be in both rooms. The first one is the room where one of the greatest musicals of all time happens. The second one is the room where his beautiful daughter falls asleep. Both always elicit standing ovations.
Watch the story of Adelaide and how Miguel and his family aren’t throwing away their shot at finding a cure for her and the millions of others affected by epilepsy.
Full disclosure: I attended Emerson College at the same time as Miguel.