The new family musical Amigo Duende premieres this month at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue. Written by three Broadway mainstays, this musical is based on a classic children's story by Flavia Lugo de Marichal. Theasy is thrilled to speak with director and co-author Luis Salgado (In the Heights, Women of the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). His collaborators are composer and lyricist Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys, In the Heights), and co-author Heather Hogan (In the Heights). Performances are October 5th at 7:30PM, October 6th at 7PM, and October 7th at 1PM. For tickets and more information, visit RevolucionLatina.org.
THEASY: What is Amigo Duende about?
LUIS SALGADO: Amigo Duende is about balance and seizing each day. It's about being open to growth every second of your life, and looking into alternative ways in which you can learn, grow and remain true to yourself without having to change to please others. Amigo Duende/The Elf Friend is about a 6-year-old girl who goes into a to-be-or-not-to-be mode. She has to either grow up quickly into the fast-pace world of NYC as she enters first grade, or hold on to her imagination, which at the end of the day helps her be the best person she can be.
THEASY: How did the project come to be? What has the development process been like?
LS: I was working on In The Heights with Joshua Henry, and we started using our in-between-shows downtime to play with ideas over this "passion" project that I had: a musical based on a beloved non-musical play that I performed in Puerto Rico when I was in high school. It's been almost 4 years now since we started working on it, and here we are now.
THEASY: Why should audiences see Amigo Duende/The Elf Friend? What can they expect of the experience?
LS: The show has a huge heart. Is a family-friendly musical that will enchant children and adults alike. Joshua Henry has created over 18 songs that all carry his musical soul and my impressions of life. The motto "Daring to Go Beyond," the slogan of R.Evolución Latina, the organization that I co-founded to inspire and empower others, is a big part of it. We don't want to create theater just for the sake of doing it. We want each part of the collaborative puzzle to come together and we want to inspire young and adult audiences and the artistic community to be their best.
It's a major effort that R.Evolución Latina is bringing this Latino-themed play to English speaking audiences in a universal focus that appeals to families of all cultural backgrounds. That's why we chose to perform the show in English. The show has strong messages about values, work, perseverance, education and family, messages that we all need to hear to be a functioning part of humanity.
THEASY: What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
LS: I hope that teachers take with them the question of "What can we do to better inspire our children right from they classroom? How can we embrace their imagination as they learn?" For parents, I hope that they understand how important it is for them to be engaged and to participate in their child's education. For siblings, I hope they understand the importance of spending time together. For Latino families, to embrace pride in who they are and where they come from. For each individual, I hope that they embrace love and imagination and remain passionate about their dreams and the things they love and care about. Everyone should remember the beautiful things in life and fight to make a better world and find their own truth.
THEASY: Does this creative team have future plans to work together?
LS: I look forward to seeing Joshua Henry continue to grow as a composer and singer/songwriter. I would love to work on many more projects with him and Heather Hogan because this collaboration has been fantastic right from the start. Heather, who also worked on In The Heights, helped me to write my show Candela, Fuerza y Pasión, and she is someone that I trust very much. I would love to create more projects together, but for now we are committed to ensure that Amigo Duende/The Elf Friend is able to inspire families. Let this be the first of many.