being hailed as the first real Latino musical. Unlike Passing Strange, In the Heights
is structured like a traditional musical
but the ground it covers —the New
York City neighborhood of Washington
Heights and its complex mixture of
American and Latin music—is new.
The show was created by Lin-Manuel
Miranda, who understands the importance of productions that turn the spotlight on people who have seldom seen
themselves represented on stage.
“In a lot of ways this is the show I
would have died to see when I was a kid,”
Miranda says. “I clung to any Latino
representation anywhere. It’s natural for
everyone to look for characters we can
relate to and identify with.”
encourage them to look further afield
for new material.
“I would make a very real effort to
get out in the rest of the country and see
what imaginative theaters are doing and
what could be translated and transported,” she says. “I know there are shows out
there, but you have to be diligent enough
to find them.”
With the Broadway status quo
undergoing such remarkable changes,
what does the future hold? At press time,
it’s hard to say. Broadway seasons run
from one May 25 through the next, and
many new plays are introduced in mid-to late spring, closer to the Tony Awards
ceremony in June when a win can mean a
great deal to a show’s attendance. In other
words, a lot of the highly original works
that will make their way to Broadway this
season have yet to be announced.
The musical’s reinvention
has been fertile ground for
Broadway’s progress in
attracting new audiences.
A two-city exhibition:
The Drama Queen
4th St & Independence Ave SW
One Bowling Green
Though straight dramatic plays generally
attract more traditional audiences, this year’s Tony winner
for Best Play, August: Osage
County, was something of a
rare bird for Broadway.
“It had three strikes against
it,” says producer Freitag. “It
had no star, it was 3 1/2 hours
long and it was a drama—
three things that you would
say would never make it on Broadway.”
Yet, somehow, it has become a huge
success. Written by Chicago playwright
Tracy Letts, who also snagged a Pulitzer
Prize for it, the play deals with a wildly
dysfunctional Oklahoma family in the
aftermath of the patriarch’s apparent
suicide. In what was considered a bold
move by producers, the director and
most of the cast were imported from the
legendary Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.
Deanna Dunagan, who won the Best
Actress Tony for her role as August’s pill-popping matriarch, says the company’s
initial fears about the acceptance of a
“Midwestern play” on Broadway were
quickly quelled by the excitement of the
New York press.
“We had huge anticipation for this
coming in [to New York] because the
press had really followed it,” she says.
Audiences, according to Dunagan,
are equally enthusiastic and surprisingly diverse. The success of August:
Osage County undoubtedly will embolden producers to consider more serious plays, and Dunagan hopes it will
The first new production of the
season, [title of show], is yet another reinvented musical, this one an ironic look
at how the show itself went from a slim
idea to Broadway. Revivals of All My Sons
and Speed the Plow have brought famous
faces such as Katie Holmes and Jeremy
Piven to the Broadway stage, and Billy
Elliot and Shrek, musicals based on popular films, will soon make splashy debuts.
In the spring, a planned revival of West
Side Story promises more Spanish dialogue and realistic portrayals of gang life.
Spring Awakening’s Steven Sater is
working on musical adaptations of such
varied works as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, and Nero, the life
story of the Roman Emperor.
Sater and his writing partner, pop star
Duncan Sheik, have never been more
optimistic about getting such unconventional works produced. “In the future,”
Sater says, “Broadway may not only be an
oasis for great entertainment, but might
be a place for entertaining art that can
move and sway and change you.”
We may not be there yet, but we’re
certainly on our way.