Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company

The production officially opened last night, December 13.

By: Dec. 14, 2023
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Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company
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Buena Vista Social Club officially opened at Atlantic Theater Company last night, December 13. The reviews are coming in now. Check out what the critics had to say below!

In 1950s Havana, a group of young musicians creates a sound that shakes the world of Cuban music – until the revolution changes everything. Forty years later, the band is brought back together to record the songs they left behind. With decades of heartbreak fueling every note, they unexpectedly go on to create the greatest-selling world music album of all time, immortalizing their songs and their legacy.

With a book by Marco Ramirez (The Royale), director Saheem Ali (Tony Award nominee, Fat Ham) leads an ensemble of visionary performing artists, including a band of renowned musicians from across the globe and a music team lead by David Yazbek (Tony Award winner, The Band’s Visit), and choreographed by Patricia Delgado (Spielberg’s West Side Story) and Justin Peck (Tony winner, Carousel). Buena Vista Social Club is an homage to the artists of yesterday – the ones who survived upheaval and oppression to make the music they loved.

Read the reviews for Buena Vista Social Club below!

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Jesse Green, The New York Times: But when the staging, singing and playing come together, whether in exuberance or sorrow, I was happily reminded of another musical about music that originated at the Atlantic: “The Band’s Visit.” (David Yazbek, that show’s songwriter, is credited here as a creative consultant.) In such moments — the hypnotic “Chan Chan,” the ear-wormy “El Cuarto de Tula,” the heartbroken “Veinte Años,” the gorgeous “Drume Negrita” — you really do feel the past harmonizing with the present. What Compay says is true: “Old songs kick up old feelings.” Even, as in the showstopping and, yes, scorching “Candela,” with a flute.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Robert Hofler, The Wrap: I’ve never been to Havana, but watching this production provided me not only a telescope to that place, but to the past. The attention to historical detail here eschews the usual musical-theater glitz to favor what appears to be the real thing. In addition to Maldonado’s weathered set design, there are Dede Ayite’s costumes, Tyler Micoleau’s lighting and J. Jared Janas’ incredibly retro hair, wigs and makeup.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Adam Feldman, TimeOut: The script hits its marks effectively, if not surprisingly, and director Saheem Ali keeps the toggling structure evocative and clear, with valuable help from Arnulfo Maldonado’s set, Dede Ayite’s costumes. But the plot is just a hanger for the musical numbers, which is where Buena Vista Social Club comes to thrilling life. The show makes no attempt to force its score into doing character work; all 15 songs, of which nine were part of the original 1996 recording sessions, are presented as performances in nightclubs or recording studios, sometimes heightened by the six excellent dancers who execute Patricia Delgado and Justin Peck’s gorgeously fluid and individuated choreography. The lyrics are untranslated, but that hardly matters. The music itself is the story.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: However, this shaky narrative framing does not affect the joy and brilliance of Buena Vista Social Club’s supreme execution of music and dance. Thanks to its excellent ensemble of musicians and singers, we can all be grateful that, as Juan says to the audience at the end, “a sound like this... tends to travel.”

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company David Miller, Jala News: While some critics argue that the narrative of the musical’s book lacks a bit of depth and the staging may seem a bit choppy, these elements provide an important contour and context to the overall concert-like experience. The book beautifully uses the recording sessions of the original album as its framework, introducing audiences to a group of veteran musicians who have gathered to create a masterpiece of “songs from the old days.”

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Gillian Russo, New York Theatre Guide: Buena Vista leaps back and forth between this album recording in the '90s and the characters' early careers in the '50s. Ali achieves these shifts seamlessly and in a swift two hours. Some Act 2 plot points, including the rise of the Revolution, get rushed in the process, as does the musical's exploration of how colorism impacts the musicians' opportunities, particularly Ferrer's.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Sandy MacDonald, New York Stage Review: Does the show aim to go bigger – to Broadway, perhaps? It has the basic makings, but the script needs a livelier, clearer through line. It wouldn’t hurt to apply a stronger focus to the political turmoil of the times (both times, ‘50s and ‘90s), a topic only glancingly touched on here. Or maybe just accord the phenomenal cover band a series of concerts? History – and the audience – might be better served.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: But the lack of a compelling narrative doesn’t matter whenever the music starts, and fortunately that happens very often during the course of the show’s two hours that seem to fly by. Several of the numbers also feature outstanding Latin-infused dances co-choreographed by Patricia Delgado and Justin Peck and exuberantly performed by a six-person ensemble.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: But the terrific ensemble carries the weight of the story's history and the beauty of its culture with passion and understanding, especially its older members, who look right at home in Arnulfo Maldonado’s faded colonial set. Every number, be it joyous or melancholy, bursts with life, and Belcon, Monge, and Semé bring the house down with faithful yet personal interpretations.

Review Roundup: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB Opens at Atlantic Theater Company
Average Rating: 72.2%


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