In the Heights' Quiara Alegrķa Hudes Has More Musicals in Her Future
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award nominee Quiara Alegría Hudes, whose latest play, Water By the Spoonful, is receiving its world premiere at Hartford Stage, is also assembling ingredients for the new musicals Like Water for Chocolate and My Name Is Asher Lev.
The Tony-nominated book writer of In the Heights recently celebrated the Hartford Stage opening of Spoonful, the second play in her trilogy that began with her Pulitzer Prize finalist, Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue.
The trilogy, based on the experiences of Hudes' own family member, centers on the life of a young marine who is injured during his Iraq deployment and must cope with the aftermath of war when he returns home and attempts to move on with his life.
Each work in the trilogy is shaped and inspired by a different style of music. Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue is influenced by Bach's fugues, while Water By the Spoonful, a larger family drama, used the music of late jazz musician John Coltrane to establish its form. Hudes said the epic family play, which was also inspired by works like Jerusalem and August: Osage County, delivers a "more sprawling, free-for-all set-up."
The final play in the trilogy, The Happiest Song Plays Last, was developed at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference last summer and will be staged by Chicago's Goodman Theatre next season, according to Hudes. The Goodman, which has not announced the work as part of its season, commissioned the romantic comedy that uses Puerto Rican and Jordanian folk music as its structural base.
Chicago-based director Edward Torres, who staged The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Off-Broadway, helmed the O'Neill workshop of The Happiest Song Plays Last. Hudes is hoping to continue the collaboration at the Goodman. Hudes explained that each of the plays was written as a stand-alone piece, but she may revisit them to see if the works could be presented as a theatrical trilogy.
The playwright is also at work on Like Water for Chocolate, a musical stage adaptation of Laura Esquivel's 1989 best-selling novel. Hudes has authored the book to the musical that has a rock-influenced score by Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs and her longtime collaborator Paul Cohen. It was previously developed as part of the Sundance Theatre Lab last summer, with Tony winner Chita Rivera among the cast.
Tony Award-winning producer Margo Lion (Hairspray, Angels In America) is attached to the production, which was previously announced to open Arena Stage's 2011-2012 season, but was delayed in order to undergo additional development. Hudes said that she plans to re-explore the second act of the musical in the hope of a summer 2012 workshop and a possible stage bow next season.
In addition, Hudes and her Tony Award-winning In the Heights collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda have reunited to collaborate on a stage musical adaptation of Chaim Potok's "My Name Is Asher Lev," the acclaimed novel about a young Hasidic boy torn between his family and his drive as a developing artist.
"It's a beautiful book and it's Lin's favorite novel," Hudes said of the musical, which she describes as Miranda's "passion project." The musical is in its early stages, but Hudes has met with Potok's widow to discuss her vision for the material on stage, and has already completed a first draft. "Lin, I think, is now figuring out 'How does this sing? What is the sound of this story?'," Hudes said.
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