“Havana Music Hall,” a new musical based on the Cuban Revolution, is now performing at Actor’s Playhouse on Miracle Mile.
The show chronicles the story of a couple, Ramona and Rolando Calderon, as they begin to break into the Cuban music scene in 1958. It follows the couple to modern times, detailing struggles still faced by Cubans today.
The production has come a long way, starting with just the original script and no audience. Now, the show is now a full production with lighting, sets, costumes and a cast of 19 actors to bring the story to life, as well as a whole new script.
Artistic director David Arisco said that Actors Playhouse is determined to get the show on Broadway. He compared it to two award-winning Hispanic inspired musicals, “On Your Feet!” and “In the Heights” musicals based on the life of Gloria Estefan and the predominantly Hispanic New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights, respectively.
Similar comparisons were made by audience member Nina Kasper, a Miami native who performs occasionally at Actors Playhouse.
“It’s better than ‘On Your Feet!’” Kasper said.
Several audience members compared the show to their families’ experiences during the Cuban Revolution.
Kasper’s husband Enrique Navar said he felt that the show captured exactly what his family went through. Navar’s parents made their living in the performing arts as a musician and a dancer. They fled to Connecticut as Fidel Castro began to gain power in Cuba, eventually moving to Miami
While other spectators may not have had such a spot-on connection with the musical, they connected with it nonetheless.
“I was born and raised here [in Miami] but, my family did have to go through the Revolution,” said Luis Correa. “They came here when they were young and my parents were sent over to get away, so I can definitely relate.”
Correa and his wife felt that this portrayal of Cuban history was crucial.
“I think seeing what their troubles were and their reasons for coming and how we all connect as a culture is very important for our Miami community,” he said.
Kasper said she appreciated the exposure to the culture, but she felt that the struggles of the Cuban people during this time were generalized. The show didn’t dig deep enough into the challenges faced by Cubans and Cuban-Americans alike during the Revolution and today, she said.
The show continued after the curtain call. The cast danced down the steps connecting the house to the stage and down Miracle Mile, with audience members joining in.
The ending is an aspect of the show that Arisco considers his one of his favorites.
“The show ends on a very high, hopeful-for-the-future place,” he said.
Arisco believes it is important to tell this story.
“The Cuban story is very different because they [the Cubans] were exiles,” he said. “They’ve heard this story from their parents, but to see it come alive onstage is different. It’s a tragic story that is filled with people who have incredible strength and perseverance,” he said.
For students, the company offers $60 seats for $15 if purchased 15 minutes before the start of the show.
“Havana Music Hall” runs until Nov. 18th. Tickets can be purchased online at Actors Playhouse’s website, https://tickets.actorsplayhouse.org/TheatreManager/1/online?event=0.