“We Can Make It Through Anything”

Santina Umbach: “We Can Make it Through Anything”

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Jared Dixon and Santina Umbach; photo by Saglio Photography, Inc.

How does it feel to be back at SpeakEasy for In the Heights?
SpeakEasy is my home and it will always have a special place in my heart. There is no other company in the world like this one. I owe it and its people so very much. I know that in tandem we can continue to create great art.

Tell us about Nina, the character you play. What’s her storyline?
Nina is a freshman at Stanford who runs into financial trouble and ends up dropping out. This is the story of her journey home to her family and friends to tell them the news.

In what ways do you identify with Nina?
Her story is in some ways my own. At one point or another, every young woman has had to bring home some bad news to her family. [Composer and Lyricist] Lin-Manuel [Miranda], soul style, reminds us that with love, alongside family and community, we can make it through anything.

What is In the Heights all about, in your opinion? What is it trying to say?
Miranda has created a show that speaks to the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the majority and the minority. We take a look at Washington Heights in Manhattan, and we follow the men and women of one of its many “barrios”. These people take us on a journey through love, loss, “paciencia y fe” [“patience and faith”] during one of New York’s city-wide blackouts. Incorporating hip hop, R & B, salsa, and a number of other musical genres, he sets the audience up for a nice ride through three days in the life of Washington Heights. It’s a loud and proud Latino piece that has changed American Musical Theatre.

It’s been two years since you last appeared at SpeakEasy in our production of Nine. What have you been doing since?
I toured the Mediterranean for 7 months performing for Norwegian Cruise Lines. I then backpacked Western Europe for a month after the tour was over, which has to be my favorite part about the whole trip! It changed my life.

Is the reality of being a working actor pretty much what you expected?
It’s not easy. It’s a struggle everyday but I can’t imagine living any other way.

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Santina Umbach as Pickles in The Great American Trailer Park Musical; photo by Mark L. Saperstein

SpeakEasy audiences probably best remember you as Pickles, the young woman experiencing an hysterical pregnancy in The Great American Trailer Park Musical – appearing opposite Mary Callanan, Leigh Barrett, and Kerry A. Dowling. What was it like for you to be making your debut opposite such a high-powered trio?
It was intimidating but we grew into a tight-knit group and they became my moms … on- and off-stage! I love them dearly and can’t thank them enough.

Did any of those three ladies give you any advice –either about the business or performing?
They taught me everything I know!

Is Broadway your ultimate goal?
To perform anywhere and everywhere is my ultimate goal. As long as I’m entertaining people, I am fulfilling that goal.

What’s next on your schedule after Boston?
My mom is getting married in the Dominican Republic three weeks after the show to a wonderful man! How ironic/appropriate! Yay!