RENT in Cuba!

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Feb 01, 2015 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Cuba - the doors have been opened! And we have much to learn about interacting and visiting, learning together, and exploring the Cuban culture. But think of it from the Cuban side, too - there are more opportunities to collaborate with their nearest neighbor. One such collaboration is musical - and exciting.

 

RENT in Cuba

 

RENT is being produced in Cuba! Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment was invited by the Cuban Ministry of Culture to present an authentic Broadway musical to Cuban audiences, featuring aspiring Cuban actors and musicians. The production joins leading Broadway creative team members with their Cuban counterparts and is a true collaboration and cultural exchange between the Broadway and Cuban cultural communities.

 

RENT in Cuba

 

Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, LLC, founded and managed by Robert Nederlander, Jr., a third generation member of the Nederlander entertainment family, manages theatres  and presents Broadway productions in emerging international markets, produces international productions for Broadway and elsewhere around the world, and undertakes cultural educational initiatives. In November 2011, Mr. Nederlander presented Broadway Ambassadors in Havana as part of the 14th Annual Havana Theatre Festival, the first Broadway style presentation from the United States to take place in Cuba in over 50 years. This, of course, led to RENT being produced there now.

The Broadway creative team is led by Andy Señor, Jr., who directs a company of 15 Cuban actors. Mr. Señor, a leading member of Broadway’s Cuban American community, has a long RENT pedigree, first starring as “Angel” in RENT on Broadway and later as a protégé of original RENT director Michael Greif, including assistant directing the Off-Broadway production, and later directing productions of RENT in multiple markets around the world.

The Havana, Cuba production of RENT also features choreography by Marcus Paul James (who appeared in RENT on Broadway including the 2008 final performance film; Motown: The Musical) based on original Broadway choreography by Marlies Yearby, musical direction by Emmanuel Schvartzman (On Your Feet), sound design by Michael Catalan, and costume design by Angela Wendt (RENT original production). Thom Schilling is production manager.

We had a chance to speak with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment President & CEO, Robert Nederlander, Jr., about this historic production. Here's what he had to say...

 

RENT in Cuba

 

Please tell us about the new production of RENT in Cuba!

This Spanish language production is being produced in partnership with the Cuban National Council of Performing Arts, and will be the first Broadway musical with a full cast, musicians, and first-class production elements produced in the nation of Cuba in over 50 years. The new production is part of Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment’s ongoing mission to bring Broadway musicals to new and emerging markets around the globe.

Gisela Gonzalez, president of the Cuban  National Council of Performing Arts, said: “This production will be a paramount step for musical theater in Cuba. We will have the possibility of combining Cuban talent with the long time history of Broadway as a form of art. This collaboration in the field of theater will bring us together and we hope that we are going to come up with an authentic and high quality product that leads us into future joint projects.”

 

RENT in Cuba

 

How have your audiences received the musical performance?

In order to make RENT more accessible to Cuban audiences, most of whom we expected would not have had prior experience with authentic Broadway musical, we decided early on to produce it in Spanish with an all Cuban cast. The response has been tremendous, with standing ovations and lines outside the theatre to buy tickets.

 

RENT in Cuba

 

What have your actors/staff/crew learned about performing in Cuba?

We sent down a Broadway creative team (director, choreographer, music director, etc.) to work with their Cuban counterparts. This was a first for both sides: the first time any of our Cuban creative colleagues had worked on a Broadway musical and certainly the first time our Broadway team had worked in Cuba. We went into this historic first with the expectation that this would be as much a learning experience as it was a practical effort to put on a show. In the end, I think everyone involved would agree it was a wonderful experience.

 

RENT in Cuba

 

Are there intercultural differences in Cuba that you didn't expect?

Anytime you undertake a development project for the first time, you have to be prepared to deal with unexpected challenges. Dealing with such challenges starts with a flexible, constructive attitude and approach of the team on the ground. As a company, we've been working in emerging markets for over a decade. For instance, we the first to tour a Broadway show, 42nd Street, across China and later brought the first Chinese show to Broadway. For our RENT in Havana production, we were fortunate to have a veteran Broadway team many of whom had worked previously in emerging and international markets, so when those challenges arose, the team was willing and able to adapt and adjust. For example, some of the specialized equipment we utilize in our industry was simply not available in Cuba. The combined Cuban/Broadway team worked out solutions, making it work with what was on hand. The outstanding response from audiences and reviews speaks to the capability and adaptability of both the Broadway and Cuban creative teams.

 

RENT in Cuba

 

RENT in Cuba

 

What's up next for you?

We are working with our partners on a tour of RENT to other cities in Cuba and already have plans for a second Broadway show for Cuban audiences.
 

RENT in Cuba

 

RENT in Cuba

 

 

For more information, including information on the Cuban cast, please see:
http://rent.nederlanderworld.com/
 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, LLC