Marta info



Composer Elio Villafranca and Writer Elizabeth Searle

A new musical in three acts with book by Elizabeth Searle, based on a film treatment by Paul T. Boghosian and script by Searle and Melinda Lopez. Music will be composed by Grammy- nominated Jazz musician and composer Elio Villafranca.  The show is in development to be produced by Paul T. Boghosian and HarborSide Films.



Our musical-in-progress, MARTA AT CLUB TROPICANA focuses on Marta, a Cuban American refugee who is a nightclub singer in Miami in the early ’80s, searching for the father she lost in the Cuban revolution and becoming embroiled with the Mariel Boat Lift, the Miami mafia, Latin fusion music and more. Marta finds herself a kind of ‘human fuse box’ as sexual, political and musical tensions explode at Club Tropicana.

The BOOK for the musical is by Elizabeth Searle, librettist of Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera, which has received national media attention, as well as author of four books of fiction.  Her script for MARTA AT CLUB TROPICANA is based on a film script, MARTA, by Elizabeth and award-winning Cuban American playwright Melinda Lopez.

Acclaimed Cuban jazz musician and composer Elio Villafranca will be doing the music for MARTA in his signature style of combining musical influences from Cuban jazz, popular music and more.  Elio has been called ‘an inspired and visionary musician’ by Wynton Marsalis.



Born in the Pinar del Río province of Western Cuba, pianist and composer Elio Villafranca was classically trained in percussion and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Since his arrival in the U.S. in late 1995, he has been involved in jazz and Latin jazz scenes on both the East and West Coasts. Based in New York City, he is resident professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Mr. Villafranca was nominated for the 2010 Grammy Award (Best Latin Jazz Album / Album of the Year) for his performance, composition and co-production of the album Things I Wanted To Do by Chembo Corniel.  He has released three albums as a bandleader that were each well received. His last album, The Source in Between, 2007, remained in the top 10 of the JazzWeek World Top 50 Chart for eleven weeks.

Mr. Viillafranca’s first album, Incantations/Encantaciones was ranked among the 50 best jazz albums of the year by JazzTimes magazine in 2003.  In 2008 he was also nominated by The Jazz Corner as pianist of the year and he received the Jazz Twirlie Nomination by Dick Crockett, of “The Voice” at 88.7FM, for his album The Source In Between.  That year, Mr. Villafranca was also honored by BMI with the BMI Jazz Guaranty Award and received the first NFA/Heineken Green Ribbon Master Artist Music Grant for the creation of his Concerto for Mariachi, for Afro-Cuban Percussion and Symphony Orchestra. Villafranca was also pianist in the CD La Guerra No by John Santos Y El Coro Folklorico Kindembo, which was nominated in the 2010 Grammy Awards as Best Traditional World Music Album. Over the years Elio Villafranca’s music has featured jazz master artists such as Pat Martino, Jane Bunnett, Terell Stafford, and Eric Alexander, among other notable instrumentalists.

Elio has also performed nationally and internationally as leader of his quartet, and as a sideman he has collaborated with leading jazz and Latin jazz artists including: Wynton Marsalis; Jon Faddis; Sonny Fortune; Giovanni Hidalgo; Eddie Henderson; Miguel Zenón; Cándido Camero; and Johnny Pacheco.

Villafranca has toured Europe and has performed at various world renowned venues and events including the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Ghent, Belgium; at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Milan and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy; at the North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague, Holland, the Guinness Jazz Festival and a national tour of Ireland.

Elizabeth Searle created both the concept and libretto for both TONYA & NANCY: THE OPERA and TONYA & NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA.  The two shows, based on the Harding/Kerrigan Olympic skating scandal, have drawn national media attention and have been produced multiple times.  Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera has been produced on both coasts, with runs in Portland, Oregon and in Boston, and performances as a staged reading in NYC and as a concert club show in LA (Feb, 2014).  Performances are in the works for 2015.  The show was performed in Boston at the American Repertory Theater’s Club Oberon and has been reviewed as ‘brilliant and touching.’  The one-act Tonya & Nancy: The Opera, with music by Abigail Al-Doory Cross, has been performed in Boston at the ART’s Zero Arrow Theater, produced by Tufts Music, and at Opera Vista in Houston, TX, where it was chosen as one of the top three new operas of the year. It was produced in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2010 and in 2014, with Previews ‘on ice.’

Ms. Searle is also the author of four books of fiction: My Body to You, Celebrities in Disgrace, A Four-Sided Bed and most recently Girl Held in Home.  She has a new novel forthcoming in 2016.  Her novel A Four-Sided Bed is now in development as a feature film.  There was also a short film produced from Elizabeth’s Celebrities in Disgrace. That film premiered at the Woods Hole International Film Festival and has screened at festivals around the country. Elizabeth’s one-act play Stolen Girl Song was performed in ME and MA in 2013. Ms. Searle’s theater works have been featured in stories on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, CBS, CNN, NPR, the AP and more. She teaches fiction and scriptwriting at Stonecoast MFA and lives in Arlington, MA with her husband and son.     Website:


Melinda Lopez is the Huntington’s inaugural playwright-in-residence and a past Huntington Playwriting Fellow. Her play SONIA FLEW Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards, dir. Nicholas Martin) inaugurated the Huntington’s home for new work, the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, in 2004. It has subsequently been produced at Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Laguna Playhouse, the Summer Playwrights Festival (NY), the Milagro Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and many others, and was broadcast on NPR’s “The Play’s The Thing!”

Ms. Lopez’s other plays include Caroline in Jersey (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Orchids to Octopi (IRNE Award, Central Square Theatre, commissioned by the National Institute of Health), Gary (Steppenwolf’s First Look Repertory of New Work, Boston Playwrights Theatre), Alexandros (Laguna Playhouse), a new translation of Blood Wedding (Suffolk University), God Smells Like A Roast Pig (Women on Top Festival, Elliot NOrton Award — Outstanding Solod Performance), Midnight Sandwich / Medianoche (Coconut Grove Playhouse), The Order of Things (CentaStage, Kennedy Center Fund for New Plays), and How Do You Spell Hope? (Underground Railway Theatre). She is among the first cohort to receive three-year-playwright-in-residency grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and was the first recipient of the Charlotte Woolard Award, given by the Kennedy Center to a “promising new voice in American Theatre.