The Mambo Kings Musical Sets Its Leading Men with Expected Star

News   The Mambo Kings Musical Sets Its Leading Men with Expected Star Actor-singer Jaime Camil will star as the musical brother opposite Esai Morales for the upcoming Broadway-bound musical staging of The Mambo Kings, production spokesperson confirmed March 28.
One of The Mambo Kings Jaime Camil.
One of The Mambo Kings Jaime Camil. Photo by Oleg Covian

The stage version of Oscar Hijuelos' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will begin previews at the Broadway Theatre July 18 and open Aug. 18 following a four-week out-of-own tryout, May 24-June 19, at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre.

Mexican-born Camil has enjoyed a singing career in addition to his acting work. As an actor, he has appeared on stage as Bernardo in the Gerardo Quiroz production of Amor Sin Barreras (West Side Story) at the Teatro Pedregal and Teatro Insurgentes, on television in the soap opera, "Mujer de Madera" and in such films as "Zapata" and the upcoming "Siete Dias (7 Days)."

Camil joins the previously announced cast which includes "NYPD Blue" star Esai Morales, "Six Feet Under" actress Justina Machado, Grammy Award-winning Cuban music star Albita and "Star Wars" veteran actor Billy Dee Williams.

Based on the Hijuelos' "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," the musical follows the same story of two Cuban brothers who travel to New York City in 1949 with dreams of becoming recording stars. The Latin siblings — flashy, guitarist Cesar and his shy trumpet playing brother Nestor — rise to fame from the dance halls to perform as Desi Arnaz's cousins on "I Love Lucy."

Camil and Morales will take on the title roles of Nestor and Cesar opposite Machado who plays the older sister of Nestor's wife. Songstress Albita takes on the role of night club singer Evalina Montoya, played in the 1992 film by her idol and mentor, the late Celia Cruz. Williams returns to Broadway to portray nightclub owner Fernando Perez. More casting is yet to be announced. Actor Morales has been seen in the film "La Bamba" in addition to his recent turn on "NYPD Blue." The Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican made his stage debut in El Hermano at the Ensemble Studio Theater and has also appeared in The Tempest opposite Raul Julia) at the Public Theater and on Broadway opposite Al Pacino in the 1992 Salome. Other credits include "American Family," "Resurrection Blvd" and the films "Bad Boys" and "Mi Familia (My Family)."

Machado currently plays scorn wife Vanessa Diaz in HBO's "Six Feet Under." The Chicago native Puerto Rican who has played in Los Angeles productions of Blade to the Heart and Black Butterfly, has also been seen in the films "Torque," "Final Destination 2," "Full Frontal" and "She’s So Lovely."

Cuban singer Albita was signed to Emilio and Gloria Estefan's label Crescent Moon, on which her debut album "No se parece a Nada," was released in 1995. She has since put out six albums including her 2004 release "Albita Llego” which earned the Latin Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Tropical album.

Williams marks his return to the Broadway stage after appearing in the 1987 original run of August Wilson's Fences and the 1976 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute I Have a Dream. The Harlem native made his Broadway musical debut in Hallelujah, Baby! after appearing in The Cool World, A Taste of Honey and Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright. He is best known for his film work in "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Mahogany" with Diana Ross and his role as Lando Calrissian in the "Star Wars" epics "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Return of the Jedi," as well as a turn in "Batman" and the television movie "Brian’s Song."

The novel was adapted for the big screen into "The Mambo Kings," which starred Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas under the direction of Arne Glimcher. Glimcher now provides book (with Hijuelos) and lyrics for the musical version which features music by Carlos Franzetti — who also scored the film. Sergio Trujillo will serve as choreographer with Glimcher as director.

The design team for The Mambo Kings features Riccardo Hernandez (sets), Ann Roth (costumes) with Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting). Musical direction will be handled by Constantine Kitsopoulos.

Daryl Roth and Jordan Roth will produce The Mambo Kings which capitalized at $12 million. "I think it's really a story that is just screaming to be a musical — it has sex and passion and mambo and rhythm and dance," Jordan Roth previously told Playbill.com (Sep. 2004).

The staging will mark the first Broadway collaboration between the mother and son producing team of Daryl and Jordan Roth. Daryl Roth was recently represented on Broadway by Caroline, or Change. Other credits include Anna in the Tropics, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? and Beckett/Albee. Jordan Roth has produced The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway as well as The Donkey Show Off Broadway.

Duluth, Minnesota native Glimcher made his directorial debut with "The Mambo Kings" in 1992. The founder of the Pace Art gallery in New York has also produced the films "Gorillas in the Mist," "The Good Mother," "The Mambo Kings" and "Just Cause" — which he also directed.

Composer Franzetti — also an arranger, producer, pianist and singer — was nominated for a 2003 Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement. He won the 2001 Latin Grammy Award for Best Tango Album, "Tango Fatal," an original ballet and a 1997 Grammy Award for "Portraits of Cuba" — which he conducted, arranged and co-produced. He has worked on the films "La Pelicula del Rey," "Q&A," "Misunderstood," "Beat Street" and "See You in the Morning" among others.

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