Miami, are you sitting down?
After 40 years, the beloved sitcom “¿Qué Pasa, USA?” is returning, providing Miami audiences a reunion with the Peña family that was long overdue.
This time, the bilingual comedy is not going to air on PBS affiliate WPBT, as it did between 1977 and 1980. Come May of 2018, Miami is going to get a live staged version of the show with the next generation of Peñas entitled “¿Qué Pasa, USA?…40 Years Later.” The announcement came Thursday at the Adrienne Arsht Center, which has teamed up with production company Loud and Live and South Florida PBS to create the show.
Don’t worry. Some of your favorites will be returning.
“Everybody from the original cast has a seat at the table,” says Nelson Albareda, President of Loud and Live. Confirmed so far from the original show are Ana Margo, who played daughter Carmen, and actresses Connie Ramirez and Barbara Ann Martin, who played Carmen’s friends. No word on Steven Bauer, or as he was known in his “¿Qué Pasa?” days, Rocky Echevarría, who played the brother.
“¿Qué Pasa, USA?” was groundbreaking for many reasons. The honest portrayal of three generations of a Cuban-American family made it a hit in a city full of similar multi-generational and bilingual households. The show’s original writer Luis Santeiro, who is not involved in this production, explained in an interview with Remezcla about how important the use of English and Spanish was: “We would actually count. When we had a script, we had people count words then we would have monolingual readers, somebody who didn’t speak English and somebody who didn’t speak Spanish, to read it to see if they got lost.”
The script was part of the magic of “¿Qué Pasa, USA?” – the way the characters seamlessly flowed between English, Spanish and Spanglish and translated key points to keep the audience up to speed. That part of the equation will remain, assures Albareda. The new script, which was written by Patrick Pino, tries to honor the formula.
Actors Jeffry Batista and Grethel Ortiz, alums of Miami-Dade College’s Teatro Prometeo, a Spanish language acting conservatory, are excited to be in the reboot. Batista, who arrived in Miami from Cuba in 2005, said he learned English watching reruns of show.
“What a great way to learn English,” he says. “By laughing.”
Neither actor has any details on their characters, and no one involved in the project will reveal any spoilers regarding the script.
One character that will be fun to catch up with is Sharon, Carmen’s American friend. Martin, who lives in Coral Gables, says she still gets stopped on the street by fans of the show, which still airs on WPBT.
“There is no way to duplicate what ‘Qué Pasa’ was,” says Albareda. “There is no way that we can bring ‘Qué Pasa’ back. But what we can do is fast forward to Miami today.”
Tickets go on sale Nov. 20.