“Real Woman Have Curves” Makes its Musical Debut

"Real Women Have Curves: The Musical" stars Justina Machado and Lucy Godínez as the mother-daughter duo

real women have curves the musical

Photo courtesy of the American Repertory Theatre

The beloved film Real Women Have Curves (2002) made America Ferrera a star and earned the coveted Audience Award Dramatic at Sundance. The film was adapted from the 2000 play by the same name from Mexican American playwright Josefina Lopez. Now it’s a making its debut as a musical with the premiere of Real Women Have Curves: The Musical recently at the American Repertory Theatre (ART) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The play and film follow Ana, a young girl living in East Los Angeles who works in a sewing factory as she navigates her complicated relationship with her mother and community as well as her desire for her future outside of what she has always known.The play and film also focus on themes like immigrant experiences, labor exploitation, feminism/gender politics, and relationships between mothers and daughters. It had its opening night Dec.14 and will go on through Jan. 21. This musical adaptation consists of abundant Latinx talent on and off stage. 

Beloved theater director and choreographer, Colombian Sergio Trujillo is working his magic with this musical through his choreography and direction. He won a Tony for Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations—a musical on the iconic “My Girl” Motown group The Temptations—making him the first Latinx winner for Best Choreography in 2019. Trujillo had also previously earned accolades, including a Laurence Olivier Award in 2015 for Best Theatre Choreographer for Memphis—a musical centering disk jockey Dewey Phillips—and a Tony nomination for On Your Feet! the musical about Latin icons Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

The music and lyrics are co-composed by Benjamin Velez and Mexican singer Joy Huerta from the duo Jesse & Joy. Huerta—along with her brother Jesse— has made a name for herself in Latin America, being the soundtrack to love and heartbreak for many listeners. The duo won the Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album in 2017 for Un Besito Más and multiple Latin Grammys over the course of their career. Velez and Huerta discuss the intention behind their composition as the music works hand in hand with the context of the play in a video shared by ART:

“Through music we can also enhance their stories or bring some backstories to these women. This is not going to be a stereotype of something. This is going to have its own sound, its own voice…Every character has had such a different way of approaching when it comes to writing. We put on the Estela hat and we know what we’re going to write.”

Velez and Huerta highlight the complexity of the character of Carmen, the mother role in Real Women Have Curves played by Lupe Ontiveros, known for her biting comments. Huerta adds, “There is absolutely no limit to what Carmen could be.” Velez concludes “Because Carmen is so complicated, it gives the music an opportunity to find all those colors.”

The cast includes Lucy Godínez as Ana and Justina Machado (One Day at a Time, The Horrors of Dolores Roach) as the complicated and nuanced Carmen. This is not the first time Justina Machado has encountered this story, her new role as Carmen is merely a reintroduction to the material. At the beginning of her career, Machado starred as Ana in the Latino Chicago Theatre Company’s production of Real Women Have Curves.

Real Women Have Curves: The Musical also features the performances of Florencia Cuenca as Estela, Shelby Acosta as Prima Flaca,  Carla Jimenez as Pancha, Janet Dacal, from the original Broadway cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. as Mrs. Spitz, and Satya Chávez as Izel.

Tickets are available now and the show runs through Jan. 21, 2024.

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American repertory theater HBO josefina lopez joy huerta justina machado latina mexican american musical musical adaptation play premiere Real Women Have Curves Sergio trujillo
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