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Celia Cruz’s story found in translation

Show hits big with Spanish language niche

How do you say “legit” in Spanish?

Right now, it’s pronounced “Celia.” Since it bowed in August, the Off Broadway tuner that recaps the life of Cuban singer Celia Cruz has carved out a niche with Spanish-language auds. Five of its eight weekly perfs are played in Spanish.

An open-ended run of a foreign-language production is rare in Gotham. Although the upcoming Rialto transfer of “In the Heights” centers on a largely Hispanic uptown nabe, most of its dialogue is in English.

“There’s not another product out there that caters to Hispanics in Spanish or bilingually. That was helpful for us,” says Gerry Fojo, a veep at Latin live entertainment company Cardenas Marketing Network. The $2 million “Celia” is produced by Henry Cardenas and David Maldonado.

“Celia” has been advertised on networks Univision and Telefutura, plus print outlets Hoy and El Diario la Prensa. Now, though, marketing is starting to expand to the mainstream with ads on NY1 and network morning shows.

According to Fojo, the producers didn’t expect the musical’s appeal to reach so many non-Spanish speakers. The three weekly perfs in English are a recent step up from the single English perf per week that the show played when it began its run.

“We’re surprised,” Fojo says. “We never thought we’d have three.”

A touring production aims to head out to Puerto Rico in July, with further stops in Mexico, Colombia and Spain and a potential U.S. tour on the books for 2009.

Massaging ticket sales

In the inhospitable economic territory of Off Broadway, legiters are perennially wondering what it takes to entice theatergoers to stray from the main stem.

How about a glass of champagne? Or maybe a massage?

Previewing Off Broadway play “Secrets of a Soccer Mom” includes both with the purchase of a $65 ticket — although you may have to fight for time in the massage chair — as well as discounts at nearby restaurants. There’s also a boutique in the lobby with stationery, vases, silk throws and a cupcake-and-coffee kiosk from the Cupcake Cafe.

Capitalized in the mid-$600,000 range, the production also is experimenting with 11 a.m. weekday matinees, for audience members who have a 3 p.m. deadline to pick up the kids.

Producers Nancy Ringham and Deborah Sonnenberg, New Jersey moms themselves who also make up two of the three-member cast, say they aim to cater to the show’s titular target demo.

“We want what we’re offering!” Sonnenberg says.

Till treks to CAA 

Legit agent Chris Till has moved to CAA, bringing with him young scribes Beau Willimon and Stephen Karam, among others.

Willimon wrote the Broadway-bound politico play “Farragut North,” aiming for the Rialto this summer. (He’s also working on the screenplay adaptation, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star.)

Karam’s play “Speech and Debate,” the first outing of the Roundabout Underground series, has proved popular enough to warrant an eight-week extension.

Till comes to CAA after three years at Paradigm, where it was recently announced the legit division will be co-topped by WMA vet Jack Tantleff.

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