Hamilton’s original Chicago company. Photo credit: Joan Marcus
When Hurricane Maria struck the Carribean region in September of 2017, the results were devastating, to say the least. Huge numbers of citizens and residents of Puerto Rico— a US Territory— suffered from severe storm destruction and catastrophic flooding, and, because of a slow-to-start recovery effort, the worst blackout in the history of the United States, and an inability to access assistance and resources, the damage grew exponentially.
When it was finally confirmed that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Pulitzer-Prize and TONY®Award-winning actor and writer behind Hamilton: An American Musical, would bring a new production of his hit show to Puerto Rico in 2019, the island was still in the heart of disaster recovery. The announcement, however, was a huge sign of hope for many.
“Bringing Hamilton: An American Musical to Puerto Rico is a dream that I’ve had since we first opened at The Public Theater in 2015,” Miranda, a native New Yorker whose parents came from the US Territory, said in a statement in late 2017. “When I last visited the island, a few weeks before Hurricane Maria, I had made a commitment to not only bring the show to Puerto Rico but also return again to the title role. In the aftermath of Maria, we decided to expedite the announcement of the project to send a bold message that Puerto Rico will recover and be back in business, stronger than ever."
Miranda also has stated that much of the proceeds from the Puerto Rico run of Hamilton would benefit The Flamboyan Arts Fund, ‘an initiative working to revive and grow arts and culture' on the island as it rebuilds.
Hamilton’s Puerto Rico company lowered its curtain for the final time on January 27th at the Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré, the local venue in which it played in San Juan. The company that performed in PR is now preparing for a San Francisco, CA sit-down run before they (eventually) take off on a national touring itinerary.
While in the final week of its island run, Dance Network was able to catch up with Hamilton PR dance captain and swing, Dashi' Mitchell.
Mitchell, who's been dancing since he was very young, toured with both North American companies and made his Broadway debut in Wicked, prior to performing as an original cast member in both Hamilton’s Chicago and Puerto Rico companies.
“When I was about 7 years old I begged my cousin to take me to her dance rehearsal so I could watch,” Mitchell said. “Then, the next day I asked my mom to sign me up for classes"
That training came in handy when Mitchell finally got an audition for Hamilton. For many dancers and actors in the cast, the audition process for the musical can require a substantial amount of preparation — and take a long time.
Dashi' Mitchell. Photo credit: Instagram
“My audition process for Hamilton was quite extensive,” Mitchell explained. “There were so many rounds and callbacks before you even got to the final call— but, when I found out I booked this job, I was so grateful and felt very honored— it was as if all my hard work and training was validated.”
Now that Mitchell is in the show, he’s one of a few company members with a very unique perspective of the piece.
"Being both Co-dance Captain and swing I feel as if I can breakdown the show meticulously,” Mitchell said. “With a show that’s so complex, and [each track so] individualized, you first wonder how is it possible to know everything.”
Mitchell saw quickly, though, that there’s not just a rhythm to each number— but the entire piece itself carries a collective rhythm.
“Finding the rhythm,” he said, “allows you to understand EVERYTHING. It’s very well thought out.”
For Mitchell, having had the opportunity to open Hamilton in Chicago was an extraordinary experience in and of itself, but to be one of the originating members of the Puerto Rico company that starred Miranda in the title role — that definitely files under the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ category.
"To be a part of the show in Puerto Rico is very special,” Mitchell said. “The pride and love on this island is so remarkable. For me, I simply just feel honored."
"Working with Lin has been a dream," Mitchell continued. "He exudes professionalism that runs throughout the entire building. Which makes everyone want to work even harder.”
“For the community and citizens in Puerto Rico,” Mitchell said finally, “I believe the show has brought them joy and hope. [There’s now an] understanding that there are people who aren’t from the island that care and will do what they can help this beautiful place thrive.”
For more on all five of the current productions of Hamilton, visit the musical’s website here. The San Francisco engagement opens February 12th and has tickets currently on sale through mid-September.
Michael Mahany serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. He is also a professional actor, musician, dancer, and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or click here to find out more.