Adventures of a Barrio Girl

Rising star Quiara Alegria Hudes puts Washington Heights center stage in a new musical

Miranda may have already created the characters, but Hudes has made them her own. At a recent preview performance, Hudes's jokey, lyrical tone, and her particular passions infuse the script. One scene even features pasteles. The character of Nina, a 19-year-old who's the first in her immigrant family to attend college, has become a much more central figure than she was in Miranda's original version. "My whole family thinks I'm totally Nina," she admits. "They sob at every Nina scene. They say, That's you, Quiara. OK, partially." But most of the script should move audiences to laughter rather than tears. A sample exchange: "Does your cousin dance?" "Like a drunk Chita Rivera."

For Hudes, dancing will have to wait until after the February 8 opening and the baby's birth two weeks later. In the meantime, like Heights's fast-talking hairdresser Daniela, Hudes is "burning the candle a las dos puntas." She needs all the energy she can muster. Throughout lunch, she nurses a single cup of café con leche, a soupçon of caffeine OK'd by her obstetrician. "I'm in previews! I need the coffee." And the occasional pastele.

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