Next, we spoke with Michael Barnard, Producing Artistic Director, and Vincent VanVleet, Managing Director, at NAMT member The Phoenix Theatre Company about their upcoming new musical Americano!, written by Barnard, Jonathan Rosenberg and Carrie Rodriguez. The musical is set to open at the end of January.
Americano! is based on the real life story of DREAMer Tony Valdovinos. His parents move the family from Mexico to the U.S. looking for a safer and more prosperous future when Tony is only two—but they never share their undocumented status with him. He is shocked to be turned down by the Marines as an illegal immigrant when he tries to enlist on his 18th birthday. Americano! traces Tony’s search for identity as he struggles to fit into a world where the only home he has ever known is suddenly ripped away.
What is The Phoenix Theatre Company’s history with new works, and how does this production of Americano! fit into your overall commitment to new works development?
The Phoenix Theatre Company has a long history of new work development, as well as a growing Festival of New American Theatre—recent world premieres include Lucky Star, Unbeatable, Dream a Little Dream, Love Makes the World Go ‘Round, When You Wish, Cookin’s a Drag and Sisters in Law. Five years ago, we made a serious commitment to increasing the tempo of new work development, and we are thrilled to say we have not only met, but exceeded expectations. Americano! was created entirely within our new work development program, and will have its world premiere on our Mainstage on January 31, 2020, as part of our 100th anniversary season. It is a human story about a DREAMer and his family—a young man devoted to this country and seeking his place in America. It comes at a very relevant time.
Tell us a little bit about the genesis of this project and what inspired The Phoenix Theatre Company to develop the project through to full production.
The spark for Americano! was struck during a chance conversation at a wedding almost five years ago. Jason Rose, owner of a prominent Scottsdale public relations, public affairs and events firm, approached us (Producing Artistic Director Michael Barnard and Managing Director Vincent VanVleet) with his vision for the project. Michael co-authored the book with Jonathan Rosenberg, whose most recent musical, 33 1/3 – House of Dreams, broke box office records at the San Diego Repertory Theatre earlier this year. Recommendations led to an amazing partnership with critically acclaimed, award-winning Austin singer/songwriter Carrie Rodriguez. Sergio Mendoza is our arranger, a native of the Arizona border town of Nogales and the founder of indie rock band Calexico and Orkesta Mendoza. The project is a collaboration with Jason Rose and Quixote Productions, and Broadway producer Ken Davenport has signed on as Executive Producer.
Americano! is a story for these times and all times, designed to challenge preconceived notions and remind us that America’s strength has always been that we are a nation of immigrants. It is a magical alchemy of robust storytelling and driving Latin score—a hot new production with broad public appeal, humanizing the people at the heart of this hot-button controversy.
What makes The Phoenix Theatre Company the perfect place to produce this show now?
At a time of great divide within our country, Americano! could not be more relevant or align more perfectly with our mission to inspire hope and understanding. We have high hopes for this production—we could see it going to other regional theatres, possibly as a tour, and ultimately launching as a commercial production in New York.
New works programs like ours are crucial to achieving gender parity in the American theatre canon—something we are working consciously to achieve. Americano! showcases the talent of an amazing female composer and lyricist—Carrie Rodriguez. It’s incredibly important for us to reflect the complexity of the human experience and the vitality of our collective community if we want American theatre to attract new audiences. Carrie melds fiery fiddle playing, electrifying vocals and a fresh interpretation of new and classic songs with an “Ameri-Chicana” attitude. Her sound is a Texas-bred twist on Mexican Ranchera songs, creating music for a culturally blended world. She has been profiled in many publications, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Times of London and The New Yorker.
Why should everyone book their flights to Arizona to catch this show?
The show is ripped right out of today’s headlines and Arizona sits at ground zero. This is a stellar cast and creative team, and we’ve birthed something truly new and remarkable that is a true expression of our shared experience. Get ready to be moved, because in the end we are all dreamers.
For more information about Americano!, and purchase tickets to the production, visit The Phoenix Theatre Company’s website.