Home » Paul Simon and the ‘Complicated’ Legacy of ‘The Capeman’ Musical

Paul Simon and the ‘Complicated’ Legacy of ‘The Capeman’ Musical

Disney+ may be the current streaming hub for Swifties, but in 2008, “When I started writing In the Heights, the impulse was to try to fix Capeman.” (Following Walcott’s death in 2017, Miranda tweeted some of his favorite lyrics from the show in tribute.) Considering that Miranda provided newly translated Spanish-language lyrics to a 2009 revival of West Side Story, it’s tempting to imagine an alternate timeline where he also aided in “fixing” The Capeman, bringing it back to Broadway before moving on to Hamilton.

Nearly 15 years after the Delacorte staging, though, a Capeman revival remains out of sight. And Gibney sounds a skeptical note when asked about the possibility of Simon revisiting the musical again. “I don’t know—maybe,” he says. “In a way, he was ahead of his time; we’ve now seen Bruce Springsteen’s show [Springsteen on Broadway] and David Byrne’s American Utopia. Obviously, The Capeman isn’t biographical in the same way, but it’s kind of a precursor to some of the [musician-created] musicals that would come later.”

Rua’s personal preference would be for The Capeman to stay in the past. “It’s important as a contextual piece in understanding Latin representation on Broadway and even Paul Simon’s work—but is it really a story we need right now?” she says, noting that her students mainly respond to hearing a young Marc Anthony and observing some of the creative chances that Simon and Wolcott took with the structure. “There’s nothing that particularly stands out to them musically, and they’re acutely aware of the violent stereotype that’s being repeated.”

“But for all its shortcomings, I think The Capeman needed to be there in order for something like In the Heights to happen,” Rua continues. “It has a place as being a production that future musicals can be in conversation with.”

Meanwhile, Negrón-Muntaner has a pitch for the best way to revive The Capeman: Put Bad Bunny in it. “Today, you have globally recognized stars like Bad Bunny who don’t sing in English and are known by people who don’t speak Spanish. If the musical gets a reworking and casts talent that reaches that diversity of audiences that would generate a different kind of vibe.”

“But the bigger questions will remain the same,” she adds. “What can you say about this story and this music that we don’t already know? What makes it profound and important to now? It’s not impossible to bring The Capeman back—but it’ll take a lot of thought.”


March 2024