Hispanic Excellence on Broadway This Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year beginning September 15 through October 15. An annual celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month honors and uplifts the invaluable contributions and influences of Hispanic and Latinx communities to the history, culture, and accomplishments of the United States.

While there are many notable Broadway stars of Hispanic descent like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lindsay Mendez, Eva Noblezada, and Chita Rivera, they are still highly underrepresented on Broadway. The importance of Hispanic Heritage Month is to lift up and recognize these marginalized voices, but artists like Matthew López and Bianca Marroquín provide a beacon of hope that an ever-growing Broadway will shine a light on these voices beyond a 30-day period.

In honor of the month, we at Broadway Direct wanted to highlight recent moments of Hispanic excellence on Broadway, showcasing artists who continue to make waves on the Great Bright Way.

On the eve of Hispanic Heritage Month’s commencement, Chicago resumed Broadway performances with two Hispanic women starring in the show. Bianca Marroquín, a longtime Roxie Hart, took on the role of Velma Kelly for the first time and Ana Villafañe returned to Broadway playing Roxie Hart. Paulo Szot also starred as Billy Flynn, making him the third in “a trio of Latin stars” leading the Broadway return cast, as the show describes.

Marroquín made history when she first joined Chicago on Broadway in 2002, becoming the first Mexican woman in a leading role on Broadway. Chicago plans to celebrate Hispanic and Latino theatre-makers and audiences with a ¡Viva Broadway! Night where select parts of the show on October 18th will be performed in Spanish.

Ana Villafañe and Bianca Marroquín in Chicago. Photo by Daniel Rader.

Chita Rivera, the Broadway legend herself, graced the stage of the Winter Garden Theatre on Sunday, September 26, 2021, to present the Tony for Best Musical alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber. While that date belonged to the long-awaited 2020 Tony Awards, it also happened to be 64 years to the day that West Side Story opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden, starring Chita Rivera herself, creating the role of Anita.

The Tony Award-winning legend proclaimed “Exactly 64 years ago tonight, September 26, 1957, on this very stage, I originated the role of Anita in West Side Story.” This statement received a rapturous standing ovation from the audience in the Winter Garden Theatre. “I’m just so glad we both are not wheeled out, we walked!” Rivera hilariously added.

Chita Rivera standing on the Winter Garden stage alongside Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions.

At the same ceremony, The Inheritance took home the Tony Award for Best Play. Written by Matthew López, he became the first Latine writer to win the award. “This is the 74th Tony Awards and yet I am only the first Latine writer to win in this category. I say that not to elicit your applause, but to highlight the fact that the Latine community is underrepresented in American theatre, in New York theatre, and most especially on Broadway,” López said in his acceptance speech. “We constitute 19 percent of the United States population, and we represent about 2 percent of the playwrights having plays on Broadway in the last decade. This must change.”

Matthew López accepting the Tony Award for Best Play, becoming the first Latine playwright to do so. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions.

“We are a vibrant community, reflecting a vast array of cultures, experiences, and yes, skin tones,” López added. “We have so many stories to tell; they are inside of us aching to come out. Let us tell you our stories.”