Last week we witnessed a handful of Latinos brothers and sisters perform and win Tony Awards. Aside of the historic success brought by the formidable line-up of this current season musicals such as On Your Feet and Hamilton, this week Chicago the musical announced its historic casting by marking the first time two Mexican-born actors (Jaime Camil and Bianca Marroquín) will lead a Broadway musical, ever. The infusion of Latinidad into the world’s leading stage comes as an inevitable transition, given more of our own artists are daring to tell our stories; in our voice, with our perspective. Our natural musicality, intricate rhythmic patters, and complex dancing surely makes for the main spectacular trifecta in musical theater. Well, one of those daring Latino artists creating spectacular scores is Mexican composer and musical theater extraordinaire, Jaime Lozano. An accomplished musician, vocal coach, composer, arranger, orchestrator, musical producer and musical director, Jaime has staged well-known musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita, The Fantasticks, among others. Needless to say, Jaime is a rising musical theater writer, considered by Lin-Manuel Miranda as the “next big thing” on Broadway.
So, what is he cooking now? a Mexican-beach-themed musical treasure titled: Children Of Salt. The musical is based on the play “Los Niños De Sal” by Mexican playwright Hernán Galindo. The show follows the story of Raúl, a successful entrepreneur who returns to the Mexican beaches of his youth only to be greeted by the memories that prompted him to flee twenty years prior. Reunited with his childhood friends, he must look to his past to move into his future. With its classic Latin rhythms Children of Salt is the timeless tale of love, loss and human capacity to hope.
Being a musical theater lover and Jaime’s friend, I decided to sit down and have a quick chat about this wonderful masterpiece.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: What inspired you to adapt “Los Niños de Sal” into a musical?
Jaime Lozano: I love telling stories through music and songs, but I’m interested in telling stories related to me in some way, Latino stories, Mexican stories; I personally think that being that specific about telling stories what make them universal. Seven years ago, in 2008 to be exact, I was studying at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at New York University and for our graduation thesis project we had to write a full length musical. I remembered that years back in my hometown, Monterrey, México, I had seen a production of a play that really touched me and moved me a lot, and at that time I was just learning about musical theater. I was 18 years old, and I saw “Los Niños de Sal” and immediately I thought: “this play should be a musical,” and I told my writing partner Lauren Epsenhart: “we should try this story, I’m sure you’ll be attracted attract to it.” So, I wrote to Hernán Galindo, the playwright of the play, and asked him for the rights to work on an adaptation of his play and since then he has been very supportive to this project.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: Is the show bilingual? Where is it set?
Jaime Lozano: The musical is totally in English. We translated the play to English and wrote all the music in English. The words in Spanish are the characters’ names and the cities, but all the characters tell the story in English. It is a Mexican story, and we are so excited to be one of the very first Mexican stories as a musical to get to New York City with such a good response from the audience and the people who has had the chance to know the material. It is set in a beach along the Pacific shoreline in Mexico: Mazatlán.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: How exciting! It’s refreshing to bring a Mexican story to New York City. What genres of Latin music are incorporated in the show? Should the audience expect something similar to In The Heights?
Jaime Lozano: Children of Salt embraces all kind of Latin and Mexican musical styles as: bachata, danzón, huapango, mariachi, son, salsa, banda sinaloense, among others; all of them fusion with jazz and musical theater. There is a lot of jazz and Latin jazz influences in all my work. To be honest, the music is really challenging for the musicians and the singers, I think because the complexity of the story juxtaposed with the music. There are a lot of jazz harmonies and polyrhythm in the percussion. Definitely In the Heights has some influence in what I do, but Children of Salt is something very different. It brings new elements; very different to anything seen in musical theater before: you can hear some influences from jazz artists such as Michel Camilo, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, among others. Can you imagine this kind of complex music but serving a story in musical theater? I think is a real exciting music and challenging in all ways.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: I can’t imagine and I certainly can’t wait! I can anticipate the advanced level of difficulty for all the musicians and cast involved in the show. You must be an experienced theater performer with knowledge in our Latin music. That being said, what’s your dream cast for this show? Are there any roles you’d love for a particular Latino/a star to play?
Jaime Lozano: My dream cast first of all is having people who love to tell this story. And the actors we have involved right now for our New York Musical Festival production are amazing; beyond words. One thing I realized and confirmed during my few years in show business, is that the greatest artists are the greatest human beings. I love to work and collaborate with that kind of people. My dream cast is to have people from who I can learn every single day and the project can grow up because of their contribution.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: Tells us about Raúl, the main character, played by Mauricio Martínez.
Jaime Lozano: Hernán Galindo took a biblical anecdote as a reference and inspiration to write the play. He took specifically that moment when God commanded Lot and his wife to leave Sodom and told them “do not look behind you,” and the first thing she did when they were leaving was exactly what she was asked not to do: turn back. At that very moment she became a pillar of salt. Based on that anecdote, Children of Salt tells the story of Raúl, a very successful Mexican business man who’s always looking back to his past. He’s attached to all his memories which doesn’t allow him to move forward. I think this is something we all can relate with. We all question ourselves: “why did I do this or that?” We live with a lot of regrets about actions and decisions made in the past and because of that we are not able to love our present. We all are Raúl in some many ways. We have to be able to learn from our past and move forward.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: Broadway Latino/a veterans have collaborated in this project, including Alex Lacamoire, Bianca Marroquin and Doreen Montalvo. What have been the most valuable lessons you’ve taken from these virtuoso performers/ musicians?
Jaime Lozano: I’ve had the privilege and the honor to cross paths with some of the most talented and amazing people in the musical theater world, and I am blessed to have their friendship. I have learned so many lessons from all my friends, particularly to be a friend, be open, be humble, and be there when someone needs you. No matter who’s in the other side always be a friend, be friendly, help people as much as you can. Remember, everything in the world goes around. Be the kind of person you would like to be with. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned: work hard because hard work always pay off; work for your dreams. To be honest with you, I never dreamed to make it to New York City, let alone Broadway. I didn’t know it existed. Life just took me here. My first time in NYC was 8 years ago, at 28 years old and at that age I saw my very first Broadway show. So, I missed a lot of time not knowing about musical theater and I needed to recover all those years. I decided to study and work hard to get into this theatrical universe. I’m not afraid of working tirelessly to make things happen; everything is about decisions. Just make the decision and go for it. It’s that easy or that hard.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: Knowing the aforementioned, I must say, yes, they all teach you those lessons. They are wonderful performers, amazing human beings and loving friends. And speaking of love and working hard, is ”Children of Salt” an ode to your motherland? How relevant is this story to the socio-political crisis going on in Mexico?
Jaime Lozano: I am convinced that an artist should be a mirror of the times she or he is living. I tell stories related with me and everything around me. Definitely everything I do is in some way dedicated to my country, to my city, to my people; because I’m telling our stories. My country and everything good or not good happening there is gonna be always a part of my storytelling. I can’t run away from who I am and where I am from. And I am so proud to be Mexican and tell our stories.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: “Tell our stories,”brilliant. We need more of that. We need to rewrite the wrong stories written about us, and make them right. To me, that’s an act of artistic rebellion. Now I must ask, what is your definition of a Latino Rebel?
Jaime Lozano: I think the word rebel means much more than just being against something or someone. In this case is synonymous with being strong, of fighting for our dreams and our beliefs. It is letting the world know we are here; that we have a lot of incredible contributions to make. We are reading to fight for the good, to stay strong and present, and make great things for this country, our native countries and the world. Art changes the world, and as a Latino artist I just want to be part of that change to have a better world.
Marlena Fitzpatrick: Art changes the world. Artists are true activists. Let me be the first to congratulate you and publicly claim all the awards for your masterpiece Children Of Salt.