.‘Miss You Like Hell’ Takes Off

The road story reimagined in a musical from the writer of In the Heights

When San Jose native Ivette Deltoro joined City Lights Theater Company as an intern out of college, she never predicted that it would lead her to the center of the city’s most anticipated co-production of 2023.

“Things just kind of continued spiraling,” she recalls. “when the full year of the internship was up, the casting person at the time was leaving to go to grad school, and she suggested that they talk to me. They said, ‘Do you want to stay on?’ and I said, ‘Of course I do!’” 

As City Lights celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Deltoro has been busy casting the musical Miss You Like Hell by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes. The show is a co-production between City Lights and Teatro Visión. 

Like In the Heights, the 2021 stage musical-turned-blockbuster that Hudes co-wrote with Lin Manuel-Miranda, Miss You Like Hell is a story of the highs and lows of Latinx immigrant experiences in the United States. While In the Heights focuses on gentrification in a New York City neighborhood, Miss You Like Hell is a family drama. 

“It’s a little bit more intimate,” Deltoro explains. The plot follows Beatriz, an undocumented mother, who surprises Olivia, her estranged teenage daughter, with a 4 a.m. invitation on a cross-country road trip. Looming on the horizon is a political storm with acutely personal impacts: Beatriz faces imminent deportation to Mexico. 

“The story that Miss You Like Hell presents is very important for the community at large in San Jose,” Deltoro says. “It’s full of a lot of heart. It’s very touching. It’s funny, but it really touches on a lot of very deep and important things about the importance of family and community, and how community can come from many different places. They meet a lot of people on the road.”

Deltoro describes the rock-infused score (composed by multi-genre songwriter Erin McKeown) as “raw” and “almost guttural.” Songs like “Yellowstone” present a new take on old sights and provide “the sounds of memory and longing.”   

Deltoro is an apt pick for the play. Not only are her parents immigrants from Mexico, she cares deeply about building community through theater. In November of 2022, she accepted the role of managing director of Teatro Visión, which “explores the social and psychological experiences of Latinxs.” 

“I was very struck by their mission,” she says. “The emphasis that they put on access for youth in our community, making it accessible for everybody, and their focus on social justice just really struck a deep chord in me. It gives me an opportunity to offer what I didn’t have access to when I was a child.”

With a foot in both companies, Deltoro played a critical role in making their collaboration on Miss You Like Hell a reality. The road trip musical (which premiered in San Diego in 2016) came to her attention around the time City Lights did In the Heights in 2018. When she joined Teatro Visión, a collaboration between the two theaters felt natural. 

“What I was really focused on was making sure that the Latinx community was really represented in the cast,” Deltoro says. “For this production, especially, it was very helpful that our director is Rodrigo García, the artistic director of Teatro Visión, because he already has so many of those connections.”  

The closing weekend performances on Feb. 23-26 will take place at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose. There, Teatro Visión will provide sliding-scale ticket prices to promote accessibility. 

Deltoro sees this as an opportunity for community building across venues.

“The nice thing about these co-productions is you have the base audience that City Lights has and the base audience that Teatro Visión usually has,” she says. “So now you’re giving them the option to be like, ‘Hey, here’s another friend of ours. They do productions in this space. Get to know them!’”

For her and the staff of both theaters, the collaboration is the ideal way to present a story about friendship and kindness across distances and differences. 

“I’m really excited for the community to see their story on stage.”

Miss You Like Hell

Showing through Feb 26

Thu-Sun, Various Times, $49+ 

City Lights Theatre, San Jose

Addie Mahmassanihttps://www.addiemahmassani.com/
Addie Mahmassani is a poet based in Santa Cruz. She holds a PhD in American Studies from Rutgers University-Newark and is currently an MFA student in creative writing at San Jose State University. There, she is a Teaching Associate as well as the lead poetry editor of Reed Magazine, California's oldest literary journal. She also surfs, sings and loves a part-sheepdog named Lou.

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