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Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Cleveland Play House

Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Cleveland Play House

Music, humor, empathy--AMERICAN MARIACHI hits all the right notes at CPH

"Mariachi is a genre of regional Mexican music that dates back to at least the 18th century. It is usually played by a male group who play violins, trumpets and a guitar. All of the players take turns singing lead and do backup vocals." The songs they sing celebrate their struggles, joys and growth.

A telenovela is a Mexican Soap opera. The scripts are filled with overly-dramatic and stereotypical characters, obvious and transparent plots, and melodramatic acting. (Think television's "Ugly Betty," which not only followed the formula format, but was presented as a telenovela withing a telenovela.)

Mariachi and telenovela are central to the present Cleveland Play House's 20222-23 season opener, AMERICAN MARIACHI.

Lucha spends her days caring for her ailing mother, but longs to shake up her home life. When a forgotten record album sparks her mother's memory, Lucha and her cousin strike upon a radical idea: to create an all-female mariachi band. But it's the 1970s, and girls can't be mariachis ... or can they?

Lucha and her spunky cousin hunt for bandmates, uncover the strong machismo attitudes of Hispanic men, reveal wife battering, run into disapproving relatives, and expose a hidden family story, while dealing with her mother's Alzheimer's disease.

Will the band come together? Will an odd-combination of women overcome societal attitudes and their personal angst? Will they get help from unexpected sources?

Sound like a melodramatic epic? Yes, it is a one hour, forty-minute telenovela, filled with mariachi music!

In comments of other productions, the reviews stated, "A vibrant ode to music and memory!" "It is all about familia, amor and tradición." "What we come away with, after laughter and even tears, is a warm feeling of familia and a greater appreciation of Mexican American pride, culture, and music!" "It's that rare show that brings tears and laughter, while using musical tradition to deal with modern issues."

The live Mariachi music is well played and infectious. It is expertly performed by Diego Lucero (guitarrón), Daniel Ochoa (vihuela), Ayan "Yaha" Vasquez-Lopez (violin) and Ricardo Vejar (trumpet).

Two of the songs were written by José Cruiz González, the script's author.

There are original musical arrangements by Cynthia Reifler Flores

The production is creatively directed by Henry Godine. The use of Spanish at various times, adds a touch of authenticity.

Many members of the proficient cast performed in productions of the script at The Goodman Theatre Center, Alabama Festival and Dallas Theater Center.

Capsule judgment: AMERICAN MARIACHI allows audiences to experience a telenovela, a Hispanic story-telling technique, and be exposed to mariachi music, while sharing a tale of universal angst. The CPH production is well staged and performed. This is a fine evening of theatre.

AMERICAN MARIAHI runs through October 9 at the Allen Theatre. For tickets 216-400-7000 or go on-line to

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From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)

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