Arianna “Ari” Afsar, a singer, songwriter and theater artist who grew up in San Diego, has been cast in the lead role in La Jolla Playhouse’s musical “Bhangin’ It: A Bangin’ New Musical.”
Afsar will play Mary, a South Asian American who competes at the college level in Indian Bhangra dance competitions. The musical is written by San Diegan alumni Mike Lew and Rehana Lew Mirza, Sam Wilmott and Deep Singh. It will run from March 8 to April 18 at the Playhouse.
Afsar was born and raised in San Diego. Her father is from Bangladesh and her mother is of German descent. She attended Westview High School in Rancho Peñasquitos. She ranked among the top 36 singers in the eighth season of Fox’s “American Idol” series and won the 2010 Miss California pageant. In 2016, she originated the role of Eliza in the Chicago production of the musical “Hamilton”. She is currently composing the score for a pop rock musical entitled “We Won’t Sleep”, with a book by playwright Lauren Gunderson.
Aryaan Arora as Mohan, Bilaal Avaz as Amit also feature in the cast of the musical; Jesse Bhamrah as Gobind, Brandon Contreras as Billy, Laura Dadap as Constance, Henry Walter Greenberg as Noah, San Diego actor Jason Heil as Wallace, Terrance Johnson as Jake, Jaya Joshi as Sunita, Madison McBride as Lily, Anu Mysore as Shetal, Amey Natu as Big Bob, Alka Nayyar as Rekha, Zain Patel as Varun, Devi Peot as New Mary, Vinithra Raj as Preeti, Ramita Ravi as Shilpa, with Nikki Mirza, Gerry Tonella and Levin Valayil as swings.
The musical will be directed by Stafford Arima with choreography by Rujuta Vaidya and musical direction by Lisa Shriver. Anushka Pushpala will be the Bhangra dance specialist. “Bhangin’ It” is about a young American woman who discovers that her identity can’t be defined by ticking a box, so she embarks on a quest to dance to her own beat. It will draw inspiration from competitive bhangra and other Indian and Western dance forms.
Playhouse art director Christopher Ashley said he was excited about the assembled cast.
“They bring incredible vitality to a show that is right in our current cultural moment. ‘Bhangin’ It: A Bangin’ New Musical’ is an utterly charming and dynamic new work about finding your identity and building community, and we can’t wait to share it with audiences this spring,” said Ashley said in a statement.