By Kenneth Jones
30 Nov 2010
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Miranda, whose parents are Puerto Rican, steps into the tour for this special engagement. He plays the upbeat musical's narrator and guide, Usnavi, a young Dominican man who runs a corner bodega in the Latino-populated Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. The 2008 Tony winner for Best Musical covers a couple of days in the life of friends, family and lovers on the diverse block.
Performances in Puerto Rico continue to Dec. 5 at the 1,875-seat Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan. The show is presented in English; the Playbill is in Spanish. Visit intheheightsthemusical.com.
Presenter Adam Troy Epstein told Playbill.com, "I have been the only U.S. presenter to bring touring non-Equity and Equity Broadway productions to Puerto Rico in the last ten years, so to my knowledge — and the knowledge of the agents who represent the shows — In the Heights is the first Equity [Broadway touring] production. It is very expensive to get a show to Puerto Rico due to the shipping expense; and time off necessary to get the sets, costumes, etc., to San Juan make it complicated to route tours there. I'm always working to bring more shows to San Juan, but it is very difficult."
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Miranda's New Yorker father, Luis Miranda, is the leader of the In the Heights public relations effort in San Juan, in conjunction with Lidda Garcia, his local counterpart.
Epstein added, "Affordability is a challenge given the high cost of presenting shows in Puerto Rico, yet we strive to find a way to have a ticket price in the $50 range. I know that Lin and his father are working with local corporations who are purchasing some seats to be able to donate them or sell them at a lower price. At the same time, the law in Puerto Rico mandates that anyone over 60 years old, or is ADA qualified, receives a 50 percent discount. Anyone over 75 years old receives free tickets. To date, we have given away over $70,000 in free tickets, and discounted over $30,000 in tickets to seniors over 60 but under 75 years old."
The touring cast performing in San Juan is Jose-Luis Lopez as Graffiti Pete, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Usnavi, David Baida as Piragua Guy, Elise Santora as Abuela Claudia, Ana Nogueira as Carla, April Ortiz as Daniela, Rick Negron as Kevin, Natalie Toro as Camila, Chris Chatman as Sonny, Nicholas Christopher as Benny, Lexi Lawson as Vanessa, Genny Lis Padilla as Nina, plus Sandy Alvarez, Christina Black, Natalie Caruncho, DeWitt Cooper III, Tami Dahbura, Ruben Flores, Rayanne Gonzalez, Rebecca Kritzer, Joel Perez, Carlos Salazar, Joseph Morales, Michael Balderrama, Brandon Contreras, Karlee Ferreira, Michael Fielder, Morgan Matayoshi.
See Playbill.com's recent conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who talks about his Puerto Rican roots. After his turn in Puerto Rico, where he is a serious celebrity, Miranda will continue work on the Atlanta world premiere of Bring It On before jumping into the final weeks of the Broadway run of In the Heights (he returns to the show at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Dec. 25).
Tony-nominated librettist Hudes, a Philadelphia native whose heritage is Jewish and Puerto Rican, is thrilled about the San Juan run. She told Playbill.com, "It's very meta. To be making history like this? On the most personal level, I started writing about Latino communities to make sure my abuela's past became part of this country's written record. To put another voice into the ongoing creation of our American history. And in doing so, we've gotten to make history. And in January, the tour will stop in Philadelphia, so two 'hometowns' in one winter? My cup overflows."
Hudes said, "I can't wait. I know at my mom's house, even a sleepy weekend breakfast can turn into a rip-roaring salsa party right there in the kitchen as the eggs are frying. Culturally, there is a visceral, physical reaction to the clave beat, which is the fundamental of salsa. It's hard to find a salsa concert where people stay seated. You simply must move to the beat, it's the only way to deal with it. So I hope to see lots of people moving in their seats. Then I'll know we did what we set out to do. I also imagine that Abuela Claudia's story might have particular impact. The story of generations, of love for elders, is very Puerto Rican."
What is Hudes most curious about for the San Juan week?
"Language," she said. "It will be interesting to see if all the English jokes play. In the first scene, Abuela Claudia uses a phrase, 'watermelon of my heart.' It sounds slightly off-kilter in English, but it's an old Spanish saying that rhymes: 'melon de mi corazon.' Lots of little things like this. It will be interesting to see where the laughs are different. Also, the local references in the script. There are little shout-outs. For instance, there is a speech about shining shoes in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. There are lyrics about Vega Alta. I hope to hear some cheers from the crowd on those. I wouldn't miss it for the world. It will be the first theatre piece I see in P.R."
Hudes explained, "My mother was born in Arecibo, a coastal town, and came to Philadelphia at 11. My stepfather was born in the mountains of Barranquitas and came to Philadelphia at five. I was born and raised in West Philadelphia. My stepfather told me this story about the first time he tasted a refrigerated soda, that he dropped the bottle and screamed, 'It stung me!' He was a kid, and he had never held anything that cold — there was no electricity in his farming town. That story just blew my mind, having grown up in a cosmopolitan place full of electricity! I first visited the island when I was 11. I remember wading through weeds in someone's backyards, then standing above some caves with ancient Taino carvings, seeing the ocean waves crash below me, and having a sense that my self, my history, was much larger than I had ever suspected. Now my parents have a place on Isla Verde and we go at least once a year. I'll be writing my next play there in February. My favorite spot is Guavate, in the mountains, where they roast pigs on spits and it's a campesino feast. I'm trying to be vegetarian right now, but nothing will stop me from eating lechon in Guavate!"