At first, you might not see the resemblance. Superman is big, strong, Caucasian and imaginary. Lin-Manuel Miranda is 5-foot-9, slight, Puerto Rican and quite real. Superman wore a cape and rescued people in distress. So does Miranda.
In these trying times, when someone asks whether one person can really make a difference, just point them in the direction of Miranda, who is having quite a month. What he is doing for NYC and Puerto Rico is awe inspiring. And he’s one of ours, born and raised in upper Manhattan.
Miranda recently flew to Puerto Rico to help lift the commonwealth out of the misery that Hurricane Maria wrought. He’s in the midst of a 23-show run of his megahit, “Hamilton,” to raise millions for the relief effort and Puerto Rican art institutions.
“This guy,” Puerto Rican playwright Roberto Ramos Perea told The Washington Post, “has made something difficult to do: to capture the attention of the whole world for us.”
Alexander Hamilton’s story resonated with Miranda, who in the opening song says, “A Founding Father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter . . .” As Miranda put it, Hamilton was “not throwing away his shot.”
You’d think Miranda’s efforts in Puerto Rico would be more than enough heroics for one month. You’d be wrong.
Right before he left, news broke that Miranda and partners rescued the Drama Book Shop, a Manhattan treasure that always has been a touchstone for NYC’s artistic community, purchasing the struggling store, which will move to a new location.
Meanwhile, I had to bust open my piggy bank (and Chase bank) to scrape up enough cash to finally see Hamilton last week, on Miranda’s 39th birthday.
No, the musical isn’t as great as everyone says it is — it’s much better. As President Barack Obama said, “It is rare when a piece of art can remind us what is best of ourselves.”
In this period of ignorance, vulgarity and deceit, we can use a generous dose of nobility, charity and humanity — a role model who walks the walk and inspires us to greater heights.
Lin-Manuel Miranda. He’s not throwing away his shot.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.