BWW Review: HAVANA MUSIC HALL at Actors' Playhouse
My grandparents' story, one I have heard many times, is etched into my heart. As a third generation Cuban American living in Miami, Florida, as soon as we start to crawl, you are listening to Cuban music, eating your grandmother's potaje (lentil beans and rice) and hearing about the good ole days before Fidel Castro stole Cuba from the people - people who still long for home; a home that was ripped from their fingers that 60 years later still proudly bleed red, white and blue. People who fled to the United States for the hope of a better life while leaving their hearts in the jewel of the Caribbean, Cuba.
At the World Premiere of Havana Music Hall, the sounds of Cuban music filled the lobby and the excitement of audience members, who were dressed for the occasion in guayaberas (traditional Cuban shirts) and hats, bounced off the walls of the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. Sipping a mojito at the reception on opening night, the magnitude of the night did not lose its importance on me. The story of Havana Music Hall isn't one just about Cubans but about all people hoping for a better life and freedom for their families; a freedom that as Americans we take for granted every day. This show not only will leave you swaying in your seats (the dancing was incredible!) but it will leave you thinking - thinking about people who endured hardships regardless if they were not allowed to leave their home or were forced to leave all they knew behind. Anyone with an immigrant experience can relate to this musical.
Havana Music Hall was the first time I have seen the stories I have heard so many times on stage. Set in 1958 Cuba, book by Carmen Pelaez, tells the story of husband and wife musical team, Rolando and Ramona Calderon, who are on the verge of breaking through to the world's stage when the Cuban Revolution tears their life apart. Almost sixty years later, we find the couple trying to forget the past in the now devastated Havana Music Hall. Directed by On Your Feet! co-choreographer Maria Torres, with story and original score by Richard Kagan, the new musical captures the pain and joy of the immigrant experience.
It would be remiss if I did not mention the magical use of projections to tell the story. The projection design used for storytelling was breathtaking. The projections were almost like a second storyteller. One of my favorite moments was the creation of the famous Tropicana music hall. The projections came into the audience and the flowers and vines slowly climbed up the sides of the walls bringing the audience into the story.
At the end of the night after the final bows, the musicians led out all the actors, director, creator of Havana Music Hall and audience members through the aisles of the theatre and spilling into the streets of miracle mile to enjoy a street celebration with Cuban music and food. It's almost as if what was shared in the theatre could not be contained. If you are Cuban or know nothing of Cuban history, this is a musical you must experience.
Tickets are now on sale to the general public, with prices ranging from $30 to $75. Tickets can be purchased by calling (305) 444-9293, visiting https://bit.ly/2Kbt2Zz, or at the Actors' Playhouse Box Office (280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134). Group discounted rates are offered for 15 patrons or more through the group sales department at (305) 444-9293 ext. 610 or on www.actorsplayhouse.org.
Preview performances will be held October 10 - 18, 2018. The show will open on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 8 p.m. and the final performance takes place November 18, 2018. Evening performances will be held Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with afternoon matinees on select Wednesdays at 2 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Actors' Playhouse Artistic Director David Arisco will lead a group discussion with the cast following the performance on October 26, 2018 as part of the company's "Second Fridays" series.
About Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Founded by Dr. Lawrence E. Stein, and under the leadership of Executive Producing Director Barbara S. Stein and Artistic Director David Arisco, Actors' Playhouse is an award-winning nonprofit regional professional theatre company celebrating 30 years of excellence. Located in the historic Miracle Theatre on Miracle Mile in downtown Coral Gables, Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and one of 13 major cultural institutions in Miami-Dade County. The company produces five Mainstage and four professional Children's Theatre productions annually, a year-round Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program, educational arts outreach programs, and the Young Talent Big Dreams countywide youth talent contest in partnership with The Children's Trust. www.actorsplayhouse.org.
Photo Credits: The Cast of Havana Music Hall.Photo by Alberto Romeu.