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BWW Review: VIVA LA PARRANDA! at Miami New Drama

BWW Review: VIVA LA PARRANDA! at Miami New Drama Michel Hausmann, Artistic Director of Miami New Drama, believes in diversity and my word, does he prove it. Last month it was "Cocaine Cowboys" blasting the Colony Theatre stage; this month it's "Viva La Parranda", one of the most endearing shows I've seen.

The eight person cast, led by singer Betsayda Machado, comes from the tiny Venezuelan village of El Clavo and life in that dot in the jungle is the theme, both musically and in the many scenes, and monologues. Actually, calling them monologues does an injustice. These are tales told from within, no longer private, full of humor and pain, Mami said, Papi said, hilarious one second, devastating the next, thirty years of their lives in the jungle.

Until one day, fame arrived under a mango tree. That's when they recorded their first album. It found its way to the USA and before you could say look out here comes a miracle, The New York Times named it Album of the Year.

Director Juan Souki first heard Machado sing some six years ago and visited her in El Clavo. From this meeting emerged the current show.

So, the performance itself? Just wonderful.

Colony Theatre's large stage, built with an added thrust, is at first glance a minimalist affair with a few scattered chairs. Catering tables are arranged in a U, skirting the outer edges. Food, dishes and supplies cover the tables and from the large urn on the center table emanates the delicious odors of the sancocho simmering within. Worth the price of the ticket without a note being sung.

As the show progresses the simplicity of the stage is belied by the back drops and the properties, and the excellent use made of the upstage video screen. English translations are flashed as are interviews, news clips and home made movies.

Oh, the singing? And the acting? Two hours weren't long enough. Machado has a glorious voice and a stage presence enough for twenty. Not that I'm deriding her band mates. They've been singing, dancing and acting together for decades and it shows.

This is not just another road musical. It's a revelation. Of warmth.

Betsayda Machado, Adrián Gómez, Oscar Ruiz, Asterio Betancourt, Nereida Machado, Youse Cardozo, Blanca Castillo, José Gregorio Gómez.

Remember those names. The next time you're in the Venezuelan jungle, in the Little Village of El Clavo, drop into their homes, say hello, and you'll be welcomed by the best music and sancocho you can imagine.

Viva La Parranda was written by Betsayda Machado and Parranda El Clavo.

Scenic design by Ika Avaliani. Costumes by Angelica "Queca" Gómez-Castro. lighting by Kate McGee, and sound by Marcelo Añez. The video was designed by Luis Acosta, Pablo Iranzo, José Layai, and Juan Souki. All excellent.

And if you weren't in love with everything enough you could go on the stage to enjoy the sancocho.

Presented by Miami New Drama through May 19 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. 305-674-1040

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From This Author Roger Martin