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Chicano/Latino Musical Theater

Marginalized Musical Theater Lecture Series

Jessica López-Barkl

on 23 December 2015

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Transcript of Chicano/Latino Musical Theater

Zarzuelas and Revistas Politicas
Manuel Noriega Ruiz and Guz Aguila; the Federal Theater Project
-Zarzuelas: (From Wikipedia). A Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the later incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it is more than likely the name of the hunting lodge near Madrid where such performances were performed for court. There are two main forms: Baroque (c.1630-1750) and Romantic (c.1850-1950). Two of the most famous zarzuelas are "Doña Francisquita" by Amadeo Vives and "Luisa Fernanda" by Federico Moreno Torroba from the 1920s and 1930s. For more information and clips of songs check out Zarzuela.net.

-Revistas Politicas: Mexican stage genre critiquing the political establishment through humor and satire. Brought to the United States when playwright Guz Aguila was exiled from Mexico in 1924.

-In 1936 the Roosevelt Administration poured money into staging 42 productions at the Centro Austuriano. The most notable of which was El Mundo en la Mano (The World In His Hand) and a Spanish language version of Sinclair Lewis' play, "It Can't Happen Here."
Chicano/Latino Musical Theater
Marginalized Musical Theater Lecture Series
Theater Forms of the Chicano Theater Movement always infused with music
Corridos, Daniel Valdez, and "I Am Joaquín"
Mexican ballads
Zoot Suit
Carmen Miranda and Desi Arnaz
The first female and male Latino(a)s Broadway Stars
A Puerto Rican America
Actos: From Jorge A. Huerta's book CHICANO THEATER THEMES AND FORMS: In standard Spanish, acto means "an act, action" and can also be used in the theatrical sense for an "act" of a play. The acto was and is a political statement, a declaration of dissatisfaction with the status quo. The acto is not a part of a larger theatrical piece, like an acot of aply, but a complete statement in itself. (Huerta, 15)

Mitos: In Spanish, "myth". Often described as an "expressionistic play," the mito in Chicano Theater "...creates a broader picture of the Chicano's indigenous culture and beliefs..." (Huerta, 117) It is also described as being inspired by early Biblical dramas that are peppered with realistic characters and allegorical figures.
From the book JOSE CAN YOU SEE? By Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez: "I demonstrate how Carmen Miranda's and Desi Arnaz's respective debuts on Broadway in THE STREETS OF PARIS and TOO MANY GIRLS, objectify, typecast, and stereotype Latinos/as." (9)

The Brazilian Bombshell: Carmen Miranda: The daughter of migrant Portuguese working-class parents. "The representation of Latinas is similar to the male stereotypical trajectory. Latinas are trapped int he stereotypes of angel, virgin, mother, whore, cantinera (tavern keeper), maid, and, most frequently, vamp, seductress, or spitfire...no image of "Latin women" was disseminated and circulated as thoroughly as that of Chiquita Banana. Chiquita comically parodied Miranda." (28-29)

The Latin Lover: Desi Arnaz: "Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, better known as Desi Arnaz, was the son of one of the wealthiest political families in Cuba. After a group of military men, among them Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar, overthrew Gerardo Machado's dictatorship in 1933, Arnaz's father was jailed and the family property was confiscated. Arnaz and his parents went to Miami in exile. Arnaz, who life story is a riches-to-rags-to-riches one, was not embarrassed to admit publicly the menial jobs he had taken to earn a living, and he willingly expressed his gratitude to the U.S. for his fortune and success." (43-45) Desi Arnaz went on to marry Lucille Ball and broke racial barriers in performance and direction.

Early Broadway Musicals that welcomed "Latin" rhythms: THE THIRD LITTLE SHOW (1931); ANYTHING GOES (1934); JUBILEE (1935); PANAMA HATTIE and LOUISIANA PURCHASE (1940); MEXICAN HAYRIDE and LET'S FACE IT (1941) and SONS O' FUN (1941).

Early Musical Movies that welcomed "Latin" rhythms: THE CUBAN LOVE SONG (1931); FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933); LA CUCARACHA (1934); UNDER THE PAMPAS MOON (1935); HEADIN' FOR THE RIO GRANDE (1936); TROPIC HOLIDAY and OLD MEXICO (1938); SOUTH OF THE BORDER, MEXICALI ROSE, and OLD CALIENTE (1939); GAUCHO SERENADE (1940); and Walt Disney's THE THREE CABALLEROS (1945).

From Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez' book JOSE CAN YOU SEE: "WEST SIDE STORY was staged at the Winter Garden Theater in 1957, and the film released in 1961 mirrors with great accuracy the original stage production...the power and vitality of the musical, not just as pure entertainment, but as an iconic ideological construction of the stereotype and identity of Puerto Rican immigrants, and all other Latino/a immigrants, in the U.S. I also realized, at the same time, that, in the musical number "America," there is a political campaign in favor of assimilation. Such assimilation is pronounced by a Puerto Rican herself, Rita Moreno, who acting was awarded the coveted Oscar. The audience's reception, which was manipulated by the Anglo-American patriotic discourse generated and transmitted through the son, led me to question and problematize how the musical configures, produces, and reproduces a racist discourse of Latino otherness in the U.S." (63)
-Traditional corridos are added to many plays in the Chicano Theater Movement to add a distinctly Mexican flavor to particular scenes. Much like early ballad operas and opera comique brought to the United States by English and French touring companies; many teatros would set dialogue to the tunes of popular corridos.
-In 1967, Daniel Valdez joins his older brother Luís Valdez, Agustín Lira, and Felipe Cantu, in Delano, California. Within a short time he becomes an indispensible part of El Teatro Campesino. By 1970, Daniel is designing and performing the music for the group’s Actos and for such productions as LA CARPA DE LOS RASQUACHIS.
-The epic poem, “I Am Joaquín,” which defines a militant Chicano identity, is written by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. The poem will later be set to music and visual by Luís and Daniel Valdez and Augustín Lira of El Teatro Campesino.
-In 1976, in Denver, Colorado, Su Teatro performs EL CORRIDO DEL BARRIO, which incorporates the song and action, and becomes the signature style of the company.

-Written by Luis Valdez and developed by his company, Teatro Campesino.

-Combined the forms of actos, corridos, mitos with the Living Newspaper techniques "...to dramatize a Chicano family in crisis." (Huerta, 175)

-Initially performed at the Mark Taper Forum to sold out houses, and moved to Broadway in 1978. While critically and popularly acclaimed in Los Angeles, New York critics did not like the play and it closed after only four weeks.

-Told the story of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial, where 600 Latinos were rounded up for the murder of one man; 17 were convicted of second-degree murder; and 175 were convicted of other offenses. This was a racially-motivated verdict based on the hairdos and clothing worn by the defendants.
Lalo Guerrero
Other Musicals Written, Performed and Produced by Latino(a)s
From laloguerrero.com: Born on a cold Christmas Eve in 1916, in Tuscon, AZ, he learned to love music from his first and only music teacher, his mother. The height of his career was during the 1940s and 1950s with recordings of Chicano swing combining corridos and boleros that told the stories of his hermanos/as. Luis Valdez rediscovered Lalo Guerrero in the 1970s and brought his music to the musical ZOOT SUIT.

Lalo Guerrero wrote songs about Cesar Chavez and Ruben Salazar. His main objective for writing music was to make his fellow hermanos/as proud of their Chicano culture/their mixed culture of Mexican and American.

President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts; he was the first Chicano to receive such an honor.

He continued to perform until 2005, when he died at age 88.
Father of Chicano Music
A Musical of Spain's beloved DON QUIXOTE
Book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh.

Inspired by Miguel de Cervante's seventeenth century masterpiece Don Quixote, that tells the story of a "mad" knight, Don Quixote, as a play within a play, told by Cervantes to his fellow prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition.
The Argentine Megamusical
Music by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Tim Rice.

Tells the story of Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón. It started out as a rock musical concept album in 1976 and then a production on the West End in 1978 that led to a Broadway production a year later. There is also a 1996 film with Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The musical was revived in 2006 on the West End and 2012 on Broadway with Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican musician/actor) as Che and Elena Roger (Argentine actress) at Evita.
Nicholas Dante's Pulitzer Prize Winning Musical
Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Lyrics by Edward Kleban. Book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante (a Nuyorican - Puerto Rican New Yorker - born Conrado Morales).

Tells the story of seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for a part in the chorus line of Broadway production. From Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez' book JOSE CAN YOU SEE: "Doing so, I will analyze ho Puerto Ricans, both author and characters, are positioned in A CHORUS LINE. I have more questions than answers: Who was Nicholas Dante? Can I rescue him from oblivion and acknowledge his theatrical merits? What are the practices of cultural and ethnic representation in the musical that permit Puerto Rican identity and strategies that from and anchor their inclusion in the musical? Do Dante and Priscilla Lopez, a Puerto Rican who also collaborated on the musical, enunciate themselves in the characters of Paul and Diana, or do they simply become an enunciated objectivized "other" inscribed in a dominant cultural texts as tokens? Are they plainly representing stereotypes according to the Anglo-American dominant models of the "Latin foreign other" and the "Latin domestic ethnic and racial other?" (85)

The 2006 revival of A CHORUS LINE cast Pacific Islander actor, Jason Tam as Paul.
-LAS BEAUTIFUL SENORITAS by Dolores Prida, produced in 1977 by Teatro Duo. From Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez' book JOSE CAN YOU SEE?: "...is a feminist play, a very early feminist play. It deals with stereotypes about Latin women. What I do is I use all these character, the Carmen Miranda types with bananas on her head, the Latin bombshell, la madre sufrida [the suffering mother], and all of them go through a process where they take away all this superficiality and dig inside themselves to find who they are." (153)

-SARITA by Maria Irene Fornes. It tells the story of spitfire Sarita and who is gradually torn apart by her sexual desires vs. her morals. This takes her to the brink of insanity.

Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Book by Terrence McNally. Based on the book EL BESO DE LA MUJER ARANA by Argentine author Manuel Puig. It premiered on the West End in 1992 and Broadway in 1993. It won the Tony for Best Musical.

This musical tells the story of a gay window dresser, Luis Alberto Molina, who is in prison in a Latin American country for "corrupting a minor." He lives in a fantasy world that revolves around movies and a diva named Aurora. He loves all the roles she played except the spider woman, who kills with her kiss. One day Marxist Revolutionary Valentin Arregui Paz, who is very sick, joins Luis' cell, and Luis nurses him back to health. Valentin wants nothing to do with this gay cell mate, once he is recovered, but Luis persists in creating a bond. Eventually, they form a friendship and Luis eats some poisoned food that was meant for Valentin. Later, Luis finds out that he is going to be released for good behavior, and Valentin convinces him to make some phone calls for him. Luis is caught in the phone calls, but refuses to out Valentin. He confesses his love for Valentin and is then shot. As he dies, he receives his kiss from Aurora.

Chita Rivera, a Puerto-Rican American, who was the first Latina to receive the Kennedy Center Honors Award, won the Tony for her portrayal of Aurora.

The Argentine Prison Musical
The Dominican-American Musical
Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Puerto Rican descent). Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes (a Puerto Rican Jew). The musical is set in Washington Heights, a largely Domincan neighborhood in the North part of Manhattan, it tells the story of a variety of characters over the period of three days. It won the Tony for Best Musical and Original Score in 2008.

A Latino Musical Revue
Music and lyrics by various. Conceived by Book by David Coffman and Dolores Prida. Musical supervision and arrangements by Oscar Hernandez. Book and song selection by Dolores Prida. Originally produced by Latin superstar Enrique Iglesias. It opened Off-Broadway in 2000.

From Musical Theatre International: "Four young Latino men have a chance meeting at Burrito World in Omaha and discover they share the same name! Even though their ancestral roots are different (Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic), not only do they share a common name, they share a common dream: to stage a show of Latin standards that puts forth a positive image to counteract Latino stereotypes. Enter Maria, a beautiful woman who provides a romantic interest as the gentlemen vie for her attentions."

The musical features the songs Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba," Selena's "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," and Enrique Iglesias' "Bailamos."

A Christian Boy Band Rock Satire
Music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. Book by Kevin del Aguila. Conceived by Mark Kessler and Ken Davenport.

The musical tells the fictional story of a Christian boy band from Ohio. It opened Off-Broadway in 2005 and closed in 2010. It is the 9th longest running Off-Broadway musical. One of the boy band members is Juan, the Latin Lover.

Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon
-AVENUE Q was conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who wrote the music and lyrics. Book by Jeff Whitty. It is a biographical coming-of-age story, satirizing coming to adulthood utilizing the techniques of Sesame Streets puppets. It opened Off-Broadway in 2003, and became the 23rd longest running musical on Broadway. It won the Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score.

-THE BOOK OF MORMON is a religious satire musical with book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez. It tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda for their mission. It won 9 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score.

ZORRO: the musical
Music by the Gipsy Kings and John Cameron. Book by Stephen Clark and Helen Edmundson. Lyrics by Stephen Clark. Based on the novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende, a prequel to the original 1919 story.

It opened in London in 2008. It opened at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA, in 2013.

A Flamenco Musical Set in Los Angeles
From Playbillvault.com: From bastard orphan to Washington's right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country's first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become.

Book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
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