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'¿Que Pasa, USA?' returning to Miami as a live stage show

The lovable Peña family from the popular 1970s show “¿Que Pasa, USA?” is returning to Miami.

A live stage production of the sitcom -- to be called “¿Que Pasa, USA? Today...40 Years Later” — will debut May 17, 2018, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

On Thursday, the center and the show’s production partners Loud and Live and South Florida PBS, announced the new production based on the popular Miami-based sitcom, which aired on WPBT-Ch. 2.

“There is such a hunger for this,’’ said Jeneissy Azcuy, director of communications for South Florida PBS, which created the show in 1976.

'Que Pasa, USA': Where are they now »

Described as the first bilingual sitcom on American television, the show chronicled the humorous culture clashes of the fictional Peña family: father Pepe, mother Juana, teenage children Joe and Carmen, and grandparents Antonio and Adela. Regular characters included Carmen's best friends Sharon and Violeta.

“Que Pasa USA? was and continues to be a cultural treasure,’’ said Suzette Espinosa, vice president of communications for the Arsht Center. “We know the story of the Peña family certainly resonates with all of Miami’s diverse cultures.”

“It’s timeless because it bridges generations and cultures and not just Cuban-Americans but all Hispanics,’’ added Azcuy.

Three of the original cast members will be part of the new production: Ana Margo who played Carmen; Connie Ramirez who played Violeta; and Barbara Ann Martin who played Sharon. Ramirez and Martin were on hand for the announcement along with new cast members. In all, there will be 10 roles.

“They are dusting us off and we’re coming back and I can’t wait to play Violetica again,’’ said Ramirez, who lives in Los Angeles and will be traveling to Miami for rehearsals. “Now coming back after so many years, I can’t believe it...To me, I am still in awe. I am really thrilled. I am really really happy. It’s good to be back home.”

The show centered on Miami’s then-growing Cuban community. Episodes focused on familiar topics like Santeria, Cuban funerals, dating non-Cubans, chaperoned dates and telenovelas.

“They were able to create this amazing storyline that told everybody of what it was like to be an exile in exile, becoming Cuban-American, the problems, the laughter, to being an American like me,’’ said Martin, who lives in Coral Gables.

Although the series ran for 39 episodes until 1980, the show lived on in reruns, spawning new generations of fans, many of whom can recite funny one-liners from the show and sing the opening of the theme song, “Hey hello, America. We are part of the new...USA.” An Instagram account that pays tribute to the show with memes and clips has more than 17,000 followers.

The show, which was taped in front of a live audience at WPBT studios, also helped launch the careers of Steven Bauer, who played hunky Joe Pena, as well as Andy Garcia, who had a small part playing Carmen's boyfriend.

Nelson Albareda, chief executive officer of Loud and Live, said the idea to bring back the show began about three years ago.

A Cuban-American native of Miami, he said he grew up watching the show and related to the multi-generational Peña family.

“Que Pasa was very strong to me and to anybody who grew up in Miami,’’ he said. “The story of immigrants and exiles has not changed and the story of abuelo, papa and hijo is universal. Fast forward to today, the abuelos of ‘Que Pasa’ are gone. The parents are grandparents and the kids are now parents and have children.”

He would not reveal the storyline of the upcoming production. The show’s original writer Luis Santeiro will not be part of the updated version, which will be in English and Spanish like the TV show. The script will be written by Miami Cuban-American writer Patrick H. Pino.

“We wanted to try and keep the essence of what ‘Que Pasa’ is,’’ Albareda added.

Tickets will go on sale beginning Nov. 20.

Reruns of the show still air on WPBT and can be watched on the station’s website.

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