La Jolla Playhouse’s rousing new musical, ‘Miss You Like Hell’ extended through Dec. 4Online Only, Section 4A, Entertainment News, Bottom Highlights Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Miss You Like Hell, the new musical written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (In The Heights, Water by the Spoonful) with music and lyrics by Erin McKeown opened at the La Jolla Playhouse Oct. 25 and has now been extended through Dec. 4.
The show tells the story of a mother and her daughter and the road trip they take across the country. The trip shows the pair the things that keep them apart and in the process bring them closer.
Daphne Rubin-Vega best known for originating the role of Mimi in the Tony Award winning musical Rent, plays the free spirited mother Beatrice and the daughter is played by Krystina Alabado (Broadway’s American Psycho and American Idiot). Rubin-Vega grew up in Panama City, Panama. Many might be surprised to learn that musical theater was not a genre the actress was immediately drawn to.
“Growing up, musical theater was not really my favorite genre,” Rubin-Vega said. “That said, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music were literally the first pieces of any theater I had ever experienced as a child. Growing up, my house played Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair frequently though, and I played Barbies to The Who’s Tommy. We made those poor dolls do all kinds of crazy shit we were still too young to do….”
Rubin-Vega draws her inspiration for life and her career from strong women in her life that give back.
“My mom died when I was young and to me, she was a Goddess and continues to be my number one inspiration,” Rubin-Vega shared. “Hillary Clinton inspires me because she is the epitome of Modern Grace under pressure. The women I’m working with right now inspire me greatly and daily.”
Rubin-Vega has had a lot of experience with new and original works. It all started after she and her mother moved from Panama City to the states. Rubin-Vega studied theatre with The New Labyrinth Theatre and became part of the comedy troupe El Barrio USA. During that time she scored an audition for the new Jonathan Larson musical Rent. She went, even though musical theatre was not something she was necessarily a fan of, and ended up landing the role of Mimi, a nineteen-year-old heroin addict with HIV. She went on to work on two other original works Anna in the Tropics (2003) and Jack Goes Boating (2007). She now has two Tony Award nominations under belt on for Rent and one for Anna in the Tropics. So, maybe it’s safe to say the actress enjoys working on original works.
“Well, it is kinda like putting a flag on a mountaintop!” Rubin-Vega said. “The discovery in an original work is endless. You are navigating an uncharted course! You have a crew, you have your instrument and you explore the jungles of human behavior… you get to be a True explorer!”
Miss You Like Hell is something the actress has been attached to since its beginning a few years ago. And there is no place else she’d rather be.
“It’s been over two years that I’ve been attached to this piece and from ‘Go’, I’ve been all in,” Rubin-Vega said. “It’s hard for me to describe the joy and satisfaction that comes from working with these supremely badass females. I am a huge admirer of the work of Quiara, Erin and Lear and getting them all together, it feels titanic. The story truly excites me, and is written for someone that looks like me! My character Beatriz, is a gem. It’s truly a different experience to play a role that will adapt to the way I look than it is to play a role for a person that is meant to look like me, ya dig?”
She also feels Miss You Like Hell will most definitely appeal to audiences given the combination of honesty, script and musicians.
“It’s truth,” Daphne-Vega added. “It’s incredible music. The band is exceptional. I haven’t been in a musical in a decade! This is a perfect jump back in. It’s joyous and buoyant tone. I think the characters are all quite lovable too.”
Credit for the music goes to Erin McKeown, who makes her musical theatre debut with Miss You Like Hell. She’s mostly known for her live performances and she has 13 albums to brag about. The world of musical theatre may be completely new to her, but according to McKeown it’s a perfect fit in her career and life.
“I love it! McKeown said. “All the different styles that I am interested in and like to write in, now have a place where they all make sense. It’s also been a wonderful experience writing lyrics with my co-writer Quiara Alegría Hudes. We’re always riding the line between getting across all the story info we need to, and keeping the song sounding like a song.”
As for why she sat on this piece for four years before letting it see the light of day, McKeown likens that decision to, of all things, food.
“Musicals take a long time to write,” McKeown admits. “For much of that time the ideas are in pencil and changing day to day. We’d like our bread to be fully baked before we serve it!”
McKeown is enjoying this process so much that the musician has already started working on a new musical.
“This whole process has been a huge learning experience,” McKeown said. It’s almost like going back to school. It’s been a challenging delight.”
Like Daphne-Vega mentioned earlier, new works definitely appeal to her. The delight McKeown mentions is definitely something the two of them have gladly shared on this process, and the changes to the show are more than welcomed.
“Oh my Lordie!!” Daphne-Vega said. “We still change and we’re still changing! That’s the thing about new works, they’re not finished until someone says so. This is like couture. We keep going until it’s pencils down. (Thanks for letting me mix metaphors. :))”
The relationship between Daphne-Vega’s character and her daughter is definitely not on solid ground.
“It’s a fractured relationship,” Daphne-Vega said. “I lost custody of her when she was little. It’s that thing where the narrative of your life gets flipped to serve someone else’s agenda. Custody battles, immigration. She thinks I’m a fuck up and hence, has grown up without a mom. I know I’m not a fuck up.”
The fractured onstage relationship between mother and daughter stays onstage. The off stage relationship between Daphne-Vega and Alabado is not only good, but working with Alabado is one of Daphne-Vega’s favorite parts of the show, along with a few other things.
“I love when I sing, Daphne-Vega admitted. “I super love when my daughter sings…I love when I dance. But mostly, I love when people get it!”
Miss You Like Hell runs through Dec. 4 at the La Jolla Playhouse. For tickets call the theater box office at 858-550-1010, or you can buy them online at lajollaplayhouse.org
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