Billboard on Broadway Podcast: 'Miss You Like Hell,' A New Musical for the Moment

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Joan Marcus
Rubin-Vega onstage as Beatriz.

One of the most absorbing new musicals right now isn't on Broadway but at the Public Theater, the major New York venue where groundbreaking shows like A Chorus Line, Hair and Hamilton premiered. It's called Miss You Like Hell, and as modern musicals go, it's refreshing on several levels: There's the dynamo creative team of Pulitzer-winning playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes (In the Heights) and singer-songwriter Erin McKeown, who collaborated on the eclectic, pop-and-rock-infused score; the story at its center, about two Latina women; and the issues it tackles, including mental illness and immigration and deportation. But like any great musical, what makes Miss You Like Hell absorbing is the performances and characters at its center, as stars Daphne Rubin-Vega and Gizel Jimenez and composer McKeown recently discussed on the Billboard on Broadway Podcast.

"The powerful aspect to me is that these women have a certain courage to change their thinking, and how we're capable of changing through very painful situations and growing when we stop denying a certain aspect of ourselves -- when we lean into that which we're trying to run away from," says Rubin-Vega. "And realizing the strength of women -- how intelligent and strong women can be," adds Jimenez. "It's seldom that you see that in a story."

McKeown goes on to describe how she and Hudes went about crafting a stylistically diverse score that would call to mind flipping through radio stations on a road trip. "All kinds of folks live in this country, and they listen to all kinds of music, and it doesn't map one-to-one with their ethnicity or where they grew up," McKeown says. "That was the vision for it." What connects the songs, she says, is "motion and rhythm. Those things are really, really important to me." "They're like little labyrinths you can uncrack," Rubin-Vega says of the songs. At the same time, Jimenez adds, the songs have an inspiring simplicity. "As the actor, you don't have to do much -- you sing the notes and say the words, and everything else just comes," she explains. "It's quite beautiful, and it's real. Nothing has to be forced, and every night can be a little different because the writing is so strong."

In their conversation with host Rebecca Milzoff, the trio delve into depictions of motherhood, how they brought their own upbringings and heritage into the show, and much more. 

Miss You Like Hell is playing at the Public Theater through May 13.