A Brisbane production of Broadway musical In the Heights has been cancelled after concerns of “whitewashing” the characters set in a Hispanic-American neighbourhood of New York City.
The Tony Award-winning show has featured a strong Latino cast in the US since it premiered 10 years ago, but the planned production at Brisbane’s Powerhouse prompted a scathing post by American blogger Chris Peterson for casting predominantly Caucasian actors.
Peterson claims he spoke to “Latinx” (a gender-neutral term for Latino men and women) performers who were turned down in favour of white actors, and says producer Matt Ward Entertainment “foolishly” posted evidence of this in a video on Instagram. The link he provided is broken.
In a statement published to its Facebook page on September 20, Matt Ward Entertainment attempted to address concerns about the ethnicity of the actors. “More than 50 per cent of our cast members identify with an ancestry other than Australian,” the post read.
On September 29 a second statement was published, stating the show had been cancelled. “After careful consideration and community consultation, Matt Ward Entertainment wishes to advise of the decision to cancel the upcoming production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights at Brisbane Powerhouse.”
Broadsheet contacted Matt Ward Entertainment for comment, but was told the company has nothing further to add to the conversation. Publicist Adam Brunes did add that “Matt Ward [Entertainment] exists to create performing opportunities for Queensland artists, particularly those in the Brisbane and Gold Coast area.”
Online comments have referenced Queensland’s small Latino population and the company’s limited budget (it operates on a community licence), while others have questioned if these roadblocks should have prevented the show in the first place.