BWW Review: Abre Camino Collective And Broadway Factor's AMPARO
Pure Joy turned into Grief and Terror then finally Relief coursed through me. For 90 minutes, I was completely immersed in the experience that is AMPARO. And that is exactly what AMPARO is; a complete theatrical experience. As I am writing this I can still feel all the emotions I went through when I first participated in AMPARO. I say participated because you don't watch AMPARO, you live it. I also haven't stopped talking about it to anyone who will listen and even now when I describe the experience as I am urging family and friends to GO SEE IT, I get goosebumps. I fear that I won't do the experience justice with my mere words but I will do my best.
AMPARO is a completely immersive theater experience based on the enthralling, true story of an immigrant family's triumph through exile. AMPARO will transport audiences from present-day Miami to 1957-Cuba through a profoundly entertaining, guided journey based on the compelling, true story of the Arechabala family--founders of The Real HAVANA CLUB rum. While AMPARO is a story about Cuban exiles, this story will resolute with anyone who has ever loved and lost. With five tracks and choose-your-own-journey moments throughout, theatergoers will be able to experience this story from multiple perspectives. You can choose to be in Bilingual tracks or English speaking tracks.
The five tracks and the over 20 different actors that take the audience on their individual journeys make the AMPARO creative team, playwright Vanessa Garcia and director Victoria Collado, mad geniuses. I have never experienced immersive theatre like this before and I took forward to go back and visit another track to get another side of the story. AMPARO truly is absolute magic. Each character seamlessly interacts with the audience to where you almost forget who is an actor and who is an audience member.
The cast features 23 actors, four musicians and two dancers. Notably among the cast are renowned Cuban actors Susana Perez (Santa Diabla), Roberto Escobar (Fuego Verde), Francisco Gattorno (Lo que la vida me robo), Hector Medina (Viva). Reprising their roles from the 2018 pilots of AMPARO is, Bertha Leal (Honeybee) as Amparo Arechabala and René Granado (Frank and the Rabbit) as Ramon Arechabala. AMPARO also features a performance by legendary Cuban singer, Roberto Torres, of his classic hit "Caballo Viejo."
My Track was Tiempo Miguel. I absolutely recommend it. Francisco Gattorno, Older Miguel, makes you instantly feel for him. You long with him as he takes you into his world. He leads you into his memories where we meet Ryan Rodriguez, Young Miguel, and his wife Melissa Ann Hubicsak, playing Edna. The actors were instantly likable and pulled you further into the world of AMPARO. But my favorite was Marcela Paguaga, as Young Margarita Maria Mendoza, the soloist for Club Nautico. As she sang on stage, you drift with her into her memories of Cuba and the hardships she suffered.
This experience is not for the weak hearted. You must want to experience the truth. As fun as it was to dance the night way on New Year's at Club Nautico, on my track we also experienced being yelled at at gun point, imprisonment in a jail cell, shootings and death. Boy, did I cry for them! It can only be categorized as experiential theatre. By the end of my journey, I was moved and my life will forever be altered because it was like I lived through the story with the Arechabala's.
The AMPARO creative team includes playwright Vanessa Garcia, director Victoria Collado, and Tony and Emmy-winning executive producers, The Broadway Factor ("American Son", "Kinky Boots"). Music director Jose Elias, of Miami-based Spam Allstars, is a Grammy-Nominated guitarist and Cuban Tres player and has worked with Conjunto Progreso noted by many as the "Buena Vista Social Club of the U.S.A." The creative team also includes scenic designer and art director Joe Rawda (Everlast Productions), lighting designer Tyler Frank, costume designers Jorge Noa and Pedro Balmaseda, and audio engineer Abigail Nover.
AMPARO is in town for a limited two-month run. It is located in a private historic villa in Downtown Miami located at 221 NE 17th Street, Miami, FL 33132. Tickets are now on sale. Ticket prices include a pre-show cocktail hour with a series of imaginatively crafted, premium Havana Club cocktails, followed by a 90-minute guided immersive theater experience. After the show, guests are invited to lounge in the Havana Club rum garden and enjoy cocktails and small bites for purchase.
Helpful hints to make your experience and enjoyable one:
Check-in time starts one hour before show time.
Enjoy Complimentary HAVANA CLUB rum cocktails prior to doors opening.
Doors Close once your experience begins. No Late admittance.
There is no intermission. Use the Restroom before.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking and or standing throughout the experience.
There are no refunds and no reentry for this experience.
Ride Share service is encouraged. Please be responsible.
Complimentary parking based on availability.
Go to https://www.therealhavanaclub.com/ for more information.
About Abre Camino Collective
Abre Camino Collective (AAC) is comprised of visual, theatre, literary, and performing artists redefining the American narrative through radical storytelling. ACC believes that great storytelling transcends race, gender, class, and every other label out there. That the power of story is to get as close to the red hot core of the human being as possible, then stir it, shift it, change it when necessary.
More about the Company: Individually, Victoria Collado has directed at Repertorio Español, MCC Youth Company, Sheen Center, IATI theatre, Columbia University, and most recently, she was the assistant director for John Leguizamo's "Latin History For Morons" on Broadway. She's currently a WP Lab Fellow. Vanessa Garcia, is a multi-genre writer working in fiction, nonfiction, theatre, and journalism. Her novel White Light was one of NPR's Best Books of 2015. As a feature writer, essayist, and journalist, her work has appeared in the LA Times, The Miami Herald, The Guardian, The Washington Post and other publications. She's also a WP Lab Fellow. Her plays have been anthologized and produced in Edinburgh, NYC, Amsterdam, Miami, and other cities around the world. She holds a PhD in Creative Nonfiction from the University of California Irvine. Together, they are two American-born, Cuban women on a mission.
About Broadway Factor
The Broadway Factor is a commercial production company dedicated to promoting diversity and new talent in American theater. The company's four founding partners - Jim Kierstead, William Fernandez, George Cabrera and Deborah Ramirez - come from the world of Broadway, business development, marketing and communications.
The group includes two Tony, an Emmy and a Pulitzer, among other awards. Individual members have production credits that include "American Son," "Anastasia," "Natasha," "Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," "Kinky Boots," "Matilda," "Pretty Woman" and "Waitress" on Broadway, and the off-Broadway musical "Unexpected Joy." Launched in 2018, the company's mission is to showcase Latino and other emerging playwrights, encourage multiculturalism and innovation in the theater, translate and tour the work of American Playwrights throughout the Spanish-speaking world, and offer executive producer, general management, audience development and other consulting services.
About the REAL HAVANA CLUB
The Arechabala Family started their rum-making business in 1878 in Cuba and first registered the original HAVANA CLUB trademark in 1934. It wasn't long before HAVANA CLUB Rum became a beloved and iconic Cuban brand - becoming a favorite amongst locals as well as American and European tourists.
Then everything changed. On January 1st, 1960, at gunpoint, the Cuban regime unrightfully seized the company's assets without compensation.
The Arechabala family lost everything and was forced to flee the homeland they loved, with a scant few of their remaining possessions--the precious HAVANA CLUB recipe being one of them. Meanwhile, the Cuban government started to sell their stolen version of HAVANA CLUB, and continues to do so to this day.
It wasn't until 1995--after decades of rebuilding, the Arechabala Family finally joined forces with another Cuban family in exile: Bacardi. The latter acquired the HAVANA CLUB brand and began producing rum based on the original HAVANA CLUB recipe and selling it in the one country that didn't recognize the Cuban government's 1960 illegal expropriation, the United States.
The real HAVANA CLUB is an example of how, despite the circumstances, Cubans in exile have never accepted their fate. HAVANA CLUB Rum holds onto its rich Cuban culture.
About Bacardi Limited
Bacardi Limited, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, produces and markets internationally recognized spirits and wines. The Bacardi brand portfolio comprises more than 200 brands and labels, including BACARDÍ® rum, GREY GOOSE® vodka, PATRÓN® tequila, DEWAR'S® Blended Scotch whisky, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, MARTINI® vermouth and sparkling wines, CAZADORES® 100% blue agave tequila, and other leading and emerging brands including William Lawson'S® Scotch whisky, ST-GERMAIN® elderflower liqueur, and ERISTOFF® vodka. Founded more than 156 years ago, in Santiago de Cuba on February 4, 1862, family-owned Bacardi currently employs more than 7,000, operates more than 20 production facilities, including bottling, distilling and manufacturing sites in 11 countries, and sells its brands in more than 170 countries. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited. Visit www.bacardilimited.com or follow @BacardiLimited.
Photo by TEAM Enterprises-Jody McClean
Photos by Roberto Chamorro.