Review Roundup: The World Premiere of HAVANA MUSIC HALL
The world premiere of the new musical HAVANA MUSICA HALL is now playing at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Miami, Florida. The exciting new show centers around the lives of Havana Music Hall's best-known musicians who are just about to get their big break before Fidel Castro seizes power.
Set in 1958 Cuba, the highly-anticipated new musical 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 apart the only life they've ever known. Almost sixty years later, the couple tries to forget the past in the now-devastated Havana Music Hall, but others won't let them. Directed and choreographed by Maria Torres (On Your Feet!), HAVANA MUSIC HALL features a book by Carmen Pelaez (Rum & Coke) and original music and lyrics by Richard Kagan.
Featuring vibrant original songs that will have audiences dancing in the aisles - including "Escape to Havana," "Place of My Birth," "Todo Es Bueno en Cuba" and "I Have My Voice," - this high-energy new musical captures the pain and joy of the immigrant experience like nothing before, bringing audiences inside the famed Havana Music Hall as hearts break and spirits soar against all odds.
The all-latinx cast of nineteen performers stars Linedy Genao (On Your Feet) as Young Ramona, local Carbonell Award-winning actorOscar Cheda (Broadway's In The Heights), Alexander Pimentel (Henry IV, Shakespeare Center of LA) as Young Rolando, Isbelia Duran (Cabaret, Area Stage Co) as Older Ramona, Rodrigo De la Rosa (Man of La Mancha, Mexico City) as Older Julio, Phillip Andrew Santiago (Evita, Actors' Playhouse) as Young Julio, Bruno Faria (Bonnie & Clyde, Slow Burn Theatre) as Alberto, Elaine Flores (You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown; Actors' Playhouse) as Maria, Anissa Gathers (Celia in Celia, NYC & Tour) as Mercedes, Jorge Barranco (In The Heights, Speakeasy Stage Co), Angely Carucci (Venezuelan National Salsa Champion), Sarita Colon (On Your Feet!, 1st Nat'l Tour), Michael Focas (Making God Laugh, Actors' Playhouse), Hector Fortun (Fun Home, NYU Tisch New Studio), Christopher Hernandez (On Your Feet!, Broadway), Lauren Horgan (Evita, Actors' Playhouse), Macia McGeorge (Zorro, Miami Theater Center), Jane Papageorge (Disney's Frozen: Live at the Hyperion), and Robbie Smith (Funny Girl, North Shore Music Theatre).
The creative team for Havana Music Hall includes Music Supervisor & Orchestrator Larry Blank (Catch Me If You Can, Orchestrations), Music Director Tony Seepersad, Dance Music Arranger and Dance Orchestrator Oscar Hernández (Spanish Harlem Orchestra), Lyric Translator & Cuban Music Historian Jose "Perico" Hernandez (Caravana Cubana), Cuban Musicologist Luis Serrano (Miami Sound Machine), Dramaturg Carmen Rivera (La Gringa), Set Design by Paul Tate DePoo III (Anything Goes - Assoc), Lighting Design by Cory Pattak (Newsies - Assoc), Costume Design by Ann Closs-Farley (The Pee-Wee Herman Show), Sound Design by Lucas "Rico" Corrubia (The Who's Tommy), Projection Design by Eye Q Productions (The Lion King, Disney Cruise Line), additional casting by Binder Casting (Gypsy w/Patti LuPone), and Acting Consultant Seán Griffin (Mark Taper Forum).
Tickets range from $30 to $75 and 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.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Christine Dolen, ArtBurst Miami: Kagan's music, with orchestrations by music supervisor Larry Blank and dance music arrangements/orchestrations by Oscar Hernández, is stronger than his work as a lyricist. His melodies are infectious, and the opening song "Esta Noche" builds anticipation that something special is about to happen. "Baila Maria" showcases the talents of the young Rolando, Ramona and Alberto, and "Mambo Cha Cha Rhumba" gives Torres and the show's dazzling dancers a license to thrill. Which they do.
Cristina Pla-Guzman, BroadwayWorld: 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.
Bill Hirschman, Florida Theater on Stage: For a predominantly Latinx team, the work had multiple resonances they could not ignore, mostly that their own stories or stories of people they loved were being accurately explored. In Torres' previous work on film, stage and television, she often "saw the underrepresentation of how these stories are told. I was always the caricature (role), the hot mama. You put the tightest dress on her, the makeup or give her a bra two sizes too small so it pops up. I always remember being that person. I was always filling in the quota of Puerto Rican and black because the way I looked."