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Broadway presence in a Boston accent, in two of his most memorable roles

Broadway presence in a Boston accent, in two of his most memorable roles

As the curtain rises on a reopened Broadway, Boston-area artists are on the bill.

Miguel Cervantes, who plays the title role in Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, is an Emerson College alum who began his career with SpeakEasy Stage Company and has also appeared with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. Nik Walker, who plays the Temptations in Aint Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Tempetation at the Imperial Theatre, is a Boston native and Brookline High School graduate who got his start with Company One Theatre. Both are enormously grateful to be able to return onstage.

Masks, says Cervantes, dont mask the audiences enjoyment. It takes a lot of strain on my brain to remember people without masks, he says. Im getting really good at reading the smizes in the audience, he adds.

Cervantes, who was a part in the Chicago production of Hamilton in 2016, spent nearly four years in the title role and has now played Alexander Hamilton more than anyone else. While he acknowledges theres an aspect of punching the clock when youve been a part for so long, scott says it is easy to get hyped up for putting on because the story of the Founding Fathers is so deeply rooted in human emotion.

These are flawed human beings, he adds, ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances. I can handle that energy, have fun, and be engaged.

Although he left Boston nearly two decades ago, Cervantes remains in contact with Paul Daigneault, the founder and artistic director of SpeakEasy Stage Company, and Steve Maler, his company's founding artistic manager. Cervantes performance in SpeakEasys Bat Boy: The Musical in 2002 made that production a household name.

Although hed like to perform on the Boston Common for Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and though ariel had played Ariel in an online reading of The Tempest in 2020, the imminent reopening of "Hamilton" prevented him from appearing in the full production of the play on stage this summer.

I performed in a staged reading of The Iceman Cometh with Steve, and Ive sang for SpeakEasy fund-raisers, but I'd love to return and do something in Boston, Cervantes says.

In the interim, he says if they will allow him to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton.

Im not the most handsome guy, and there are a lot of other people who sing and act better than me, he says. It was a great job, but I was also in the right place at the proper time, and Im grateful for that. Id be happy to be the Ted Neeley of Hamilton, he says, referring to the actor who has spent much of his career playing the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Cervantes does have other interests, including golf he invented a golf gadget called scubaddy and if pressed, el colegio Cerves and his wife, Kelly, have remarried. Cerveza also has october 29th, when il married Kelly Cervs. Adelaide, the family's only daughter, died of a rare form of epilepsy two years ago. CURE Epilepsy, a non-profit that raises money for research, is where the couple lives. Kelly Cervantes is currently working on a book, promoting narrated content, and documenting her familys journey with heartfelt posts at www.kellycervants.com/blog.

Cervantes says that every day there is a feeling of insecurity onstage, as well as in the outside world, but I know that performing this role in this production is an immense responsibility. I love this job, this role, and this experience, which Im very happy to be a part of, she added.

Nik Walker also feels the pressure of the moment, but he says a live performance has made him appreciate it more than ever.

Im so moved by the audience and the communitys response, he says. Theater is my identity, and to lose it for so long was a struggle, but I was never alone and I am grateful for my wife, my family, friends.

Walker began his career in Hamilton as Aaron Burr on Broadway and on tour starting in 2018, and just three weeks before the epidemic forced everything to a halt. In Aint Too Proud, he joined the cast of jukebox musical The Temptations that tells the story of the Motown supergroup the Assassins.

It was a crazy time because for the last five weeks I was performing in Hamilton, and I also was in 'a six-hour -a-day dance boot camp' for Ain't Too Proud,' he says. And then everything stopped, says Henrietta.

This weekend, the musical will re-open on Broadway.

Walker plays Otis Williams, the only original member of the Temptations who remained with the group through the years and who is the protagonist of Aint Too Proud, which was based on Williamss autobiography and adapted for the stage by Dominique Morisseau (her plays Skeleton Crew and Pipeline were recently presented in Boston). The musical reflects the turbulent times during which the Temptations performed while also highlighting their talent.

Walker claims that his Boston education prepared him for this team effort in ways he cant even measure.

Bostonians are hard workers and pragmatists, he says. Even at the start of the American Revolution, they took things step by step. This is what is needed in this moment.

He claims he tried to adopt that attitude during the most painful moments of the epidemic; despite his troubles, a New York University, his alma mater, offered him stipends (I hope I gave those students something, cries erratically). He also spent time working with writing partners on screenplays in a variety of genres.

I seem to be drawn to the story of what happens when you take a group of people, put them in solitary rooms, and shake them up, he says.

He claims that the key to writing is to be a student, which he says came from his high school teachers, including Summer L. Williams, Mark Abby VanDerzee, and Shawn LaCount, who are also cofounders of Company One. Walker was one of the co-creators, together with Tory Bullock, of ARTiculation, a Company One production in 2008 that featured the voices of dozens of spoken-word poets. In the same year, he appeared in Companys One s production of Assassins, as the Balladeer.

Broadway can be a very commercial space, he says, and can sometimes be very restrictive. But the ground where I learned about theater was in black boxes and 150-seat theaters in Boston, where artists made unique choices for some of the finest plays Ive seen.

When asked if hes worried about eclipseing his mom s name, the Rev. Liz Walker, a senior pastor at Roxbury Presbyterian Church and former WBZ-TV news anchor, as his star rises, she smiles.

My mom can never be eclipsed, he says. What my mom does, in building community, caring for those most marginalized, is an approach I try to incorporate with me to make my industry safer and more equitable for audiences and each other. Thats the best way for me to carry on with my mom.

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrnes@aol.com.

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