Remember in 1999, when the covers of Time, Newsweek and New York all had some version of a Latin Explosion cover? Ricky Martin crosses-over, Jennifer Lopez is on the six — “Hispanics have arrived!,” they boldly told us.
I thought: “weren’t we always here?”
But now I can happily say that a similar “explosion” is happening on Broadway, and the rey and reina of the movement are Lin Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.
Miranda brought us the freshest musical I’ve seen in years, In the Heights, which chronicled the lives of Hispanics in the mostly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. In true melting pot fashion, the characters include Cubans, Puerto Ricans and African Americans, and the score incorporates merengue, hip hop and salsa for some catchy and emotional tunes. Olivo originated the lead role of Vanessa, Miranda’s love interest who dreams big and far away from the hood.
She left The Heights for the West Side in the current Broadway adaptation of West Side Story. As Anita, which Bebe Neuwirth told me yesterday is the best written female character for stage, she gets to sing, dance, love, lose, rage, brag, boss and steal every single scene she’s in. And who was responsible for the show’s bilingualism, including a fantastic, girls-night-in version of “I Feel Pretty” called “Soy Hermosa?” None other than Miranda.
We’ve come full circle.
I had my doubts about how the songs and scenes would work in Spanish, but I’m now a believer and am curious about what the non-Spanish speakers think? Please share!
Posted by: Mariela