Hijuelos on musical-writing

I knew a musical based on Oscar Hijuelos’ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love would be coming to Broadway soon. But I didn’t know that Hijuelos penned the script. As the show prepares to open in San Francisco, he talks with Oscar Villalon about the challenges of writing it.

It was slow going, even for a professional who had studied playwriting (“I was very good with stage directions,” he jokes) before writing fiction, which he studied at New York’s City College in the ’70s. (Susan Sontag was one of his teachers.)

“The hardest thing was finding the clear vision of how the narrative would go and keep the story in focus. Novels are complicated in a totally different way,” he says. With musicals, the trickiness comes in all the collaborations.


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