The plight of immigrants in the United States has been making rounds on both social and mainstream media. While there are always some success stories to be told, many families are struggling even more now due to America’s growing restriction on its immigration policies. This is what Felix Starro, the first-ever Filipino-American musical to hit Off-Broadway, mirrors. It is set to premiere at Theater Row in New York City on August 23 and will run until September 15.
Based on a short story by Filipino-American writer Lysley Tenorio, who was born in the Philippines and currently lives and works in San Francisco as an associate professor, Felix Starro is a story of a young, undocumented immigrant in San Francisco played by Nacho Tambunting of NBC’s Rise, and his famous faith healer grandfather brought to life by Alan Ariano who rose to fame in Miss Saigon and The King and I.
The story revolves around Felix (Ariano), a famous faith healer in the Philippines who falls on hard times and decides to fly to San Francisco for one last healing mission in the Bay Area. He is accompanied by Junior (Tambunting), his 19-year-old grandson and assistant. With the money this last healing mission will bring in, Felix dreams of a better life… not knowing that Junior has plans of his own. Junior gets in touch with Flora, a woman who processes documents for illegal immigrants in the US (played by Ching Valdes-Aran). When he learns that he has to change his name, he backs out, only to contact Flora again when he learns that his grandfather deceived a staff member at their hotel.
The musical’s cast is completed by Caitlin Cisco as Crystal, Francisca Munoz as Mrs. Delgado, Ryan James Ortega as Bobby/Ramon, and Diane Phelan as Charma.
Filipino-American novelist and playwright Jessica Hagedorn, the award-winning author of the best-selling novel Dogeaters, wrote the musical’s script and lyrics. Fabian Obispo, meanwhile, is responsible for the music. The director, Ralph B. Peña, is also a Filipino-American who founded a street-performance company that uses vaudeville as a form of protest against the Marcos dictatorship. When he moved to the US, he founded Ma-Yi Theater Company—the producer of Felix Starro. Ma-Yi has been creating opportunities for Asian American theatre artists.
Felix Starro explores issues of faith, family, love, loss, betrayal, and the life of an undocumented immigrant in America. For tickets and more information, visit Ma-Yi Theatre.org.