The national tour of the family-friendly pop musical swoops in for a one-night stand at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts
With her super powers and her fearless sidekick, Barrio Grrrl fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way . At least in her own mind.
Ana is 9 years old, living in the barrio of Philadelphia , and while her mother is stationed in Iraq , she creates an alter ego (Barrio Grrrl ) and an imaginary friend (The Amazing Voice) to help her get through the tough times. Together, they pursue justice and protect the neighborhood. But when her Mom returns, Ana is confronted with real-life problems, and has to choose to live in her imagination or do something genuine and earthbound for her family and community.
The creator of the musical, Quiara Alegría Hudes , is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who was the book-writer for the Tony Award-winning Best Broadway Musical of 2008, “In the Heights.” “Barrio Grrrl !” has been referred to as the ‘little sister’ of “In the Heights,” which was set in the New York City barrio of Washington Heights .
Hudes likes that comparison. “It’s a good description,” says the author who, like her character, grew up in Philadelphia .
“I had my little girl, now age 4, very much in mind when I created ‘Barrio Grrrl !’ I made sure to limit the length to an hour, and I injected a lot of a young girl’s energy, spirit and frustration into the show.”
The cross-cultural, family-friendly musical comedy, with rock and Latin rhythms by composer Bill Sherman (Tony and Grammy winner for his orchestrations of “In the Heights”), is a production of the Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences. When it premiered in D.C., the Washington Post said ‘Barrio Grrrl !’ “eschews conventional narrative thrills and chills in favor of exploring children’s creative and emotional lives.”
On the national tour, which is visiting 17 cities in three months, Ana is portrayed by youthful, energetic adult actor Desiree Rodriguez, who describes her character as “a scrappy, intelligent, resourceful little girl with an amazing imagination. She’s smartly written and really fun to play.”
Rodriguez grew up in New Jersey , on the edge of the barrio.
“I have Ana in me,” she admits. “I’m playing a version of myself. She wants to change the world, and she changes herself on the journey. Like Ana, I’m my own comic book hero. And this show plays out like a comic strip, with flashbacks to memory or fantasy. You can almost see the thought bubbles. It’s a story that anyone of any age can relate to, about growing up and leaving certain things behind. And maybe not changing the whole world, but having an impact on your immediate world – your family and community.”
“Community activism and involvement have always been very important to me,” says playwright Hudes , the daughter of a Puerto Rican spiritual leader and a Jewish artisan.
“After seeing ‘Barrio Grrrl !, ’’ young people come away with a notion of community involvement,” Hudes proudly reports. “Kids in modern life are shuffled from one activity to another – music , dance, sports. But it’s important to stay connected to your neighbors, your community, and to see them as places where children can learn and grow. I’m interested in sparking little activists.”
You can spark your own little activist, at the Poway Center , February 19.
“Barrio Grrrl !” plays at 7pm Saturday, February 19, at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets ($25 for adults, $5 for youth under 18) are available at 858-748-0505; www.powayarts.org