BWW Review: VIVA LA PARRANDA! at The Colony Theatre - A Celebration of Life
Infectious. Hopeful. A Celebration of Life. Viva La Parranda! Miami New Drama has become the pulse of the Miami Theatre scene; a place where the Magic City's melting pot of cultures, languages and this time even food is celebrated. This isn't just lip service! Their audiences come to see themselves and their neighbors on stage. Miami New Drama's world premiere musical, Viva La Parranda!, was an absolute celebration of life, of our diversity and what makes our society richer. It reveals the story of a small folkloric Afro-Caribbean band, artists Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo, that emerged from a remote village in Venezuela, the most dangerous country in Latin America, to become New York Times Best Album and captured the world's imagination with their unique sound.
As the audience spilled through the doors of the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road, I was mesmerized by a man who I later learn is Adrian Gomez. I wasn't the only one in the audience following his backward and forward motion while preparing the cocoa. Whispers can be heard in the audience before the show officially began. With its Surrealism wrapped in Documentary style Theatre, Viva La Parranda! was entrancing. The high energy that reverberated off the stage was meet by eager ears as you felt the rocking of audience members from side to side dancing in our seats. What a treat for us when the musicians walked through the aisles of the house as if saying come join us on this journey. I was hooked.
It was nothing I expected. I had admittedly come in with a preconceived idea of what to expect and I was blown out of the water. The musicians were celebrating through the contagious beats of Afro-Venezuelan music their stories and songs of their real-life struggles and triumphs. Yet, as if it was a surreal painting slowly reveling itself the longer you stared in marvel. The experience was immersive and with each drum beat that energizes the story at its core- the irrepressible desire of people longing for freedom.
The music of La Parranda El Clavo is the heart and soul of the play. The music which is so deeply rooted in its country speaks volumes. It sings of joy and pain with energy that cannot be contained. Parranda is a genre of music, born of the exuberant mix of cultures in Venezuela's rural Barlovento region. Parranda also refers to the party that springs up wherever the music is played.
Yet, the music is nothing without the musicians behind it. They are more than musicians. They are storytellers and what a powerful story because it is their story. With every truthful moment told on stage, there is a very visceral reaction when you realize, THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED! "Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo are consummate performers in their own tradition," says artistic director Michel Hausmann. "Miami New Drama is delighted to adapt our theatre to fit them, rather than the other way around."
To create this new production, Director Juan Souki drew on experiences from his previous career in devised theatre to elicit and distill the deep personal stories that make up Viva La Parranda! "It would have been an insult to write a show for them," he remarks. "We built a script together using only their own words." Those authentic words, parranda song, and sancocho stew give Viva La Parranda! its power to transport audiences, so they experience Venezuela from the inside.
The sancocho is still warm in my stomach. The joy of the paranda is still playing in my mind. It is an experience you won't soon forget.
Viva La Parranda! A new musical
April 25 - May 19; Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8pm, Sunday 3pm
Tickets: $35-$65. www.colony.org or 305-674-1040