Titled Carmencita Jones, the new incarnation of the 1943 work is directed by award-winning British director Christopher Henshaw. Cuban playwright and poet Norge Espinosa Mendoza penned the new Spanish script and lyrics.
Hammerstein's original idea was to adapt Bizet's opera Carmen as a Broadway musical, supplying English lyrics to Bizet's musical themes, and translating the libretto and the location from Seville, Spain, to the American South, where the Spanish characters became African-American characters. The new adaptation moves the action to pre-revolutionary 1958 Cuba.
Book writer and lyricist Stephen Clark has been brought on for the bilingual American version that is produced by Jon Lee, Willem Metz and Renshaw. The private industry reading takes place March 26 at the Roundabout Rehearsal Rooms
"The original idea was Christopher Renshaw's. For many years he's wanted to do a reset Carmen Jones, he's a big fan of that musical," Lee told Playbill.com. While most shows go out of town to Chicago or San Francisco before their Main Stem bows, Lee and his team charted new territory by testing their new version of Carmen Jones in Cuba last June.
The initial Spanish-language production was staged in an abandoned docks building in old-town Havana. "We wanted to make it as authentically Cuban as possible," Lee explained. "We developed a really authentic Cuban take on all the music and all the choreography. The music sounded really beautiful in Spanish. We are trying to keep it all authentically Cuban... all the dance all the music all the arrangements, but putting in English parts of the script in this new version. Alex Lacamoire, a Tony Award winner for the orchestrations to In the Heights, has created new orchestrations and arrangements for the production in collaboration with Edgar Vero. The score is characterized as utilizing authentic Cuban musical sounds including Mambo, Danzón, Cha-Cha-Cha, Salsa and Rumba.
Producers are mulling the idea of having two versions of Carmencita Jones that will suit markets across the globe: One Spanish-language and one that mixes both Spanish and English.
For the New York workshop, Lee said that, "The lyrics now are sort of mixed with Spanish, but still keeping some of the Hammerstein lyrics."
London producers will fly to New York later this month to see what Renshaw and his team have created ahead of the musical's 2016 London premiere. It is expected that further stagings will employ Cuban musicians and dancers. Several artists have been flown to New York for the workshop.
Among them are Cuban actress Luna Manzanares who will reprise her performance in the title role. The cast will also feature Lesli Margherita (Matilda, Zorro), Janet Dacal (In the Heights), Olga Merediz (In the Heights), Ana Isabelle, Joshua Henry (Scottsboro Boys, Violet), Nicholas Rodriguez, Zachary Infante, Joseph Melendez and Tony Award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Rent).
Cuban choreographer Roclan Gonzalez Chavez has created the dance sequences for the production. Music direction is by Kurt Crowley and casting by Jay Binder and Jack Bowdan.
According to the creators, "Set in late 1958, Carmencita Jones collides the deadly sexuality of Carmen with the passion and turmoil of the Cuban revolution.