Cuba to ‘Rent’ its first Broadway musical in 50 years

Published: November 25, 2014
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The show’s success resulted in various national tours and numerous international productions adapting the musical in their native language. PHOTO: FILE

The show’s success resulted in various national tours and numerous international productions adapting the musical in their native language. PHOTO: FILE

Cuba will stage its first Broadway musical in more than 50 years when Rent starts a three-month run on December 24, said the show’s producers. The Nederlander entertainment group has finally succeeded after numerous attempts over the years to produce a Broadway musical in Cuba, according to a spokesman for Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, reported Reuters.

US-produced musicals were disallowed in Cuba after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Although a workshop production of Carmen Jones was staged in Cuba in June, this Spanish-language production of Rent will be the first Broadway musical with a full cast, musicians and production elements in Cuba in over 50 years, spokesperson  Keith Sherman said.

In 2011, Nederlander produced a concert based on Broadway show tunes in Cuba. Then, Cuba’s Culture Ministry invited Nederlander to stage a full Broadway musical. Sherman called it an ‘arts-based’ production rather than a profit-making venture, saying low-priced tickets would fail to cover costs.

Nederlander, one of the biggest theatre and music venue operators and producers in the United States, is producing Rent in conjunction with Cuba’s National Council of Performing Arts at Havana’s Bertolt Brecht Theatre with a company of 15 Cuban actors. The creative team for the Broadway musical is being led by Andy Señor Jr.

Señor is a renowned member of Cuban America’s Broadway community and has played a key role in reviving theatre in Cuba, reported deadline.com, an entertainment-based website. He is also famous for being a protégé of director Michael Greif, assistant director the Off-Broadway production and later, directing productions of the show in multiple markets across the world.

Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics penned by Jonathan Larson. The musical is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La boheme. The story of the musical centralises a group of impoverished young artistes who are struggling to gain ground and start a life in New York City’s East Village during the thriving days of the Bohemian Alphabet City. It is set against the backdrop of HIV AIDS.

The success of the musical resulted in various national tours and numerous international productions adapting the musical in their native language. In 2005, it was adapted into a motion picture with most of the original cast members from the 1994 stage musical reprising their roles.

In 1996, Rent was nominated in 10 categories at the prestigious Tony Awards, winning in four categories, including the ‘Best Musical’ and ‘Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical’ awards. The Broadway production also won the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Best Drama’ that same year.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2014.

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