In the Heights Broadway Star Doreen Montalvo Dies at 56: She 'Could Do Anything'

Claudia Harmata
·4-min read

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Broadway actress Doreen Montalvo, who will appear in the upcoming film adaptations of musicals In the Heights and West Side Story, has died. She was 56.

Her manager, Steve Maihack, confirmed the news on Sunday in a statement on Instagram. Her cause of death was unclear, though Playbill.com reported she was suffering a "sudden ailment"

"It’s been my honor and extreme pleasure to have worked with Doreen, as her manager. From the minute we met it was like we had been friends for years. Kindred spirits, for sure," he wrote. "My favorite memory will be watching you as Gloria Fajardo in the OYF tour at the open-air outside KC Starlight theater....belting out ‘Mi Tierra’ to an audience of 8000, with the sun literally setting as if God himself was directing the most PERFECT moment for us all. It was thrilling."

"This last year had been such an exciting one for Doreen with the filming of both the In the Heights and West Side Story feature films, as well as her return to Broadway in Mrs. Doubtfire. She was also making strides in the tv world- which she was a natural at. Doreen could do anything. She was like a winning lotto ticket," Maihack continued. "She was all of ours winning lotto ticket. We will continue to carry her, telling her story and remembering the talent and love she shared with us all. Most importantly the LOVE, as long as there is love."

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Brent N Clarke/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Doreen Montalvo

Alongside his statement, Maihack shared a video of Montalvo singing with another note that read: "It's been two weeks in which all who love Doreen Montalvo Mann have had the utmost patience and faith, that she would return to us. We are devastated to hear she has left us today."

Montalvo was part of the original Broadway cast of 2008's In the Heights. She also notably starred in the musical, On Your Feet, and has made several guest appearances on TV shows like Law & Order, Madam Secretary and The Good Wife.

She will now appear posthumously in the film adaptations of In the Heights and West Side Story, which were both slated the debut earlier this year before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic postponed their premieres until 2021.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created and starred in In the Heights before creating his acclaimed musical Hamilton, mourned his costar on social media after learning about her death.

"Doreen Montalvo was the first actress to audition for In The Heights in the basement of the Drama Book Shop in 2002. The first one. She sang La Lupe's Qué Te Pedi and embedded herself in my heart in an instant," he recalled on Twitter. "Her voice was had that tear in it--that lágrima. Inimitable & hers."

"Everyone who met Doreen became her new friend. She held her friends so dearly and easily. You'd go to her cabaret show and see people YOU hadn't seen in years; but Doreen stayed in touch. Everyone stayed in touch with Doreen," he added. "It is monstrously unfair that we did not get more time with her. More shows with her. More music with her. More life with her. When someone brings that much joy and love to everyone they meet, that much commitment to the craft they love ... it's unfair. And heartbreaking."

Many others who worked or knew Montalvo also shared their condolences and grief on social media.

In the Heights film director, Jon M. Chu, wrote that Montalvo "was a force of love that seeped into every inch of In the Heights."

Gabrielle Ruiz, who also starred in In the Heights, called Montalvo "the best dressing roommate and richest heart on Broadway." "Our hearts are dim and my condolences are sent to her family and my theatre family. 2020 is such a tough year," she wrote.