Barrio Babies, a new comic musical about five Hispanic performers in search of the American showbiz dream, is being eyed by producer Eric Krebs for a move to New York City following its Nov. 10-Dec. 30 world premiere by the Denver Center Theatre Company.
Luis Santeiro and Fernando Rivas' musical satiric take on cultural types and stereotypes won the Edward Kleban Musical Theatre Award and the Richard Rodgers Development Award. Producer Krebs (Electra, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues) will attend previews and assess the Denver staging -- starring Philip Anthony, Sara Ramirez, Annie Kozuch, Edgar Garcia, April Ortiz and Steve Routman -- with the hope of moving it to New York in 2000, depending on Manhattan venue availability.
Krebs first saw a version of the show in 1998 at the annual National Alliance for Musical Theatre showcase in Manhattan. He laughed a lot, he said, but was struck by the depth and sophistication of the work. He snatched up the right to produce it.
"It's funny, it's fun, it's vibrant, it's Salsa and it's very comic in a life- affirming way," Krebs told Playbill On-Line Oct. 8. "It also touches upon an important issue this country continues to face, which is ethnic and racial stereotyping, but with an understanding and a hope about the whole thing."
One song, sung by the group of Hispanic performers yearning for better work and representation in pop culture, has them reading off the lines they're forced to say as TV and movie maids, hookers, gang members, criminals, etc. Actress Ramirez earned a 1999 Outer Critics Circle nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm. She also appeared in The Capeman.
Krebs all but said that if the show is a smash in Denver, expect it to play New York. He worked in tandem with the Denver Center on casting and creative-team choices.
The musical by Santeiro (book and lyrics) and Rivas (music) will be directed by Susana Tubert, with choreography by Footloose's A.C. Ciulla. Designers are Jim Youmans (sets), David Kay Mickelsen (costumes), Howell Binkley (lighting) and David White (sound). Musical arrangements and orchestrations are by Rivas, and musical direction is by Douglas Coates.
Barrio Babies will be staged in Denver in the velvet-walled jewelbox called the Ricketson Theatre, within the DCTC's four-venue complex.
Composer Rivas graduated from the Juilliard School of Music in 1977 with a bachelor's in composition. He won the Marion Freschl Prize for Vocal Composition in 1975 and the Princess Grace Foundation Grant in 1986 for outstanding original work in musical theatre. In 1990 he began to write for Children's Television Workshop and has composed a number of songs for "Sesame Street" (they were sung by the likes of Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan and Cyndi Lauper). He earned the Emmy Award for his songs in 1995 and 1996.
In 1997, he won the Richard Rodgers Development Award for Barrio Babies.
Santeiro's plays usually deal with the humorous side of cultural assimilation and include The Lady from Havana, A Royal Affair, Mixed Blessings, The Rooster and the Egg and Our Lady of the Tortilla (which has enjoyed almost 100 productions around the country). Santeiro is also a writer of "Sesame Street," for which he has received 12 Emmy Awards. He was also head writer of the first bilingual sitcom, "Que Pasa, USA?," which premiered on PBS and won him another Emmy.
Director Tubert began her collaboration on Barrio Babies three years ago. Among her directing credits are Santa Concepcion at the Public Theater and The Knee Desires the Dirt for Women's Project & Productions in New York City, as well as many regional productions.
For information about the Denver Center Theatre, call (303) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222.
-- By Kenneth Jones