Get the New Year off to an upbeat, feel-good, rousing start and, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and see REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES! Head to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge for a world premiere musical directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Sergio Trujillo who keeps this 2 hour 40 minute production moving on a lean, effective set.  Based on Josefina Lopez’s play which inspired the movie, this musical adaptation is fantastically entertaining while tackling serious issues that still need tackling: immigration and women’s power, while blowing the lid off body image stereotypes and celebrating every curve in the road to self-realization!

Photo: Nile Hawver/Maggie Hall

The play is set in 1987 L.A. where 18 year-old Ana (Lucy Godinez) is working in a garment factory founded by her powerhouse of a mother Carmen (Justina Machado) who has sweated and sacrificed to emigrate from Mexico to chase the American dream. She, her husband, and daughters are still chasing as they hide from deportation crackdowns, and labor in substandard working conditions.  But Ana– the only American-born member of the family, wants to take advantage of a new path out. Unbeknownst to her family, she has earned a full scholarship to Columbia’s School of Journalism three thousand miles away, but is afraid to tell her family who she’s sure will see it as a betrayal of the family business they hope she’ll take over, not to mention how much they’d fear how far away she’d be!

Lucy Godinez as “Ana”/ Photo:Nile Hawver/Maggie Hall


We know where Lisa Loomer’s overly broad book is headed. What keeps us invested is the music (Joy Huerta and Benjamin Velez /Music and Lyrics) and the performances. Every voice makes you want to listen, even if some of the lyrics are clunky or even cringeworthy. In a lament about menopause I could have done without “My youth may be dying/My  !#%$** is drying.” But Lucy Godinez’s rich soaring soprano is a thing of beauty and power.

Justina Machado as “Carmen”/ Photo:NileHawver/Maggie Hall

Same for Justina Machado’s voice and performance as Carmen whose rage and strength intimidate but also, ironically, inspire Ana to reach farther. The whole ensemble delivers …even if  the golden-voiced Satya Chavez beggars credulity as “Izel,” a 17 year-old Mexican soon-to-be deportee.  And though it almost comes out of nowhere, a climactic number (and there are several) when the sweaty seamstresses strip down to their undies–is thrilling as they and we, the audience, revel in a collective celebration of individuality and freedom! This somehow works and while the show is not perfect,  it sent me out of the theater on a wave of can-do optimism. Be among the first to see it still in progress onstage as a premiere effort! At The American Rep Theater though January 21!