Review: ENGLISH WITH AN ACCENT at GALA Hispanic Theatre

Dynamic performance piece from Migguel Anggelo marked by energetic dancing.

By: Apr. 06, 2022

Review: ENGLISH WITH AN ACCENT at GALA Hispanic Theatre

One may never know what to expect on April Fool's Day, but a one-night-only performance by a Venezuelan-American artist at the GALA Hispanic theatre was certainly one of them.

Part stirring concert, part dynamic dance experience, part one-man rock opera about the experience of U.S. immigration, Migguel Anggelo's "English with an Accent" was certainly something a sold-out D.C. audience fully embraced.

A co-presentation by Washington Performing Arts and GALA Hispanic Theatre, it was the rare show presented in English at GALA, albeit as the title will remind you, with an accent.

Anggelo, 49, is a dynamic, diminutive performer with a disarming style and bottle-blonde hair who can keep up with the supercharged, energetic 10-member dance troupe that's busy every minute, yet can hold the show with his narrative songs, sometimes presented in a surprising falsetto.

The story is a common one - a personal tale of the struggle of immigrating to this country, the loneliness, the distain given by others, the maddening legal and monetary requirements, the exhilaration of making it finally through all the hoops.

It was, in fact, the basis of another narrative dance piece on the same stage last fall, Edwin Aparicio's auto-biographical "Salvador," which was part of the GALA's Fuego Flamenco Festival.

But that one was pure dance - and indeed, this one could have been presented that way, given the imaginative, eye-popping choreography by Avihal Haham, who was also director.

But Anggelo's tuneful score, which he created and co-wrote with musical director and arranger Jaime Lozano, makes it all the more compelling. The songs aren't quite the stuff of classical opera or standard Broadway, but more along the lines of theatrical rock that someone like David Bowie might have devised.

It's no surprise that "English with an Accent" began life as a concept album - Anggelo's third such release.

In it, he compares the immigrants journey to the chrysalis of a butterfly.

"They say I'm just a worm, but I know I'm a caterpillar," he declares early on.

He sings it but it's also acted out. He's first seen inching away as a worm on the wide open GALA stage, bare from wall to wall to make room for the piece. When he declares he's more like a caterpillar, the 10 young, diverse dancers quickly line up behind him like segments on that insect to effectively complete the picture.

The fast-moving, succinct "English with an Accent" has a number of memorable tableaus, from a ribbon that engulfs and supports him that is perhaps analogous to red tape, to a stretched piece of white fabric from which his head pops up. When he throws fistfuls of money into the air a couple of times it's clear the costs of paying fees and lawyers add up (and how quickly they clean up those bills each time they're scattered!).

The only thing that doesn't work as well is a segment with clown noses meant to be a commentary on the Trump administration. The satiric intent seems a bit dated since that period seems thankfully behind us.

The remarkable agility and athleticism of the dancers, who at times resemble a regimented burst of energy as in a cheerleading competition, are relentless throughout, and are critical to the work's success.

They are: Orla Baxendale, Reed Tankersley, Mathilde Guerrero, Nathaniel Hunt, Kody Jauron, Jordan Lombardi, Daisia Pulls, Maia Schechter, Shota Sekiguchi and Ian Spring.

But none of it would be happening without Anggelo, born Miguel Angelo Pinto Martínez in Valencia, Venezuela and involved in musical theater since he was a young man, landing the title role in a traveling company of "Pinocchio" in his native company. After performing at several theater companies in Caracas, he traveled to Germany, where his grandfather was born, to study voice in Cologne. Then he traversed Latin America for years as part of the cast of "Fama El Musical."

In "English With an Accent," he sings "I watched the army kill my people," and repeated his desire to come to the United States. Once here on a tourist visa he was confronted "Where are you from?" and "Go back," But eventually his character reaches his dream - as the artist did in real life just recently.

Based now in Brooklyn, Anggelo's very limited tour of "English with an Accent" was booked to play just once in the nation's capital. It's also scheduled at New York's Lincoln Center in November.

Once word gets out about the work, though, it will likely fly elsewhere, like the monarch it endeavors to become.

Running time: About one hour, with no intermission.

Photo credit: Migguel Anggelo standing, and company in "English With an Accent." Photo by Teresa Castracane.

"English With an Accent" was performed April 1 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, in collaboration with Washington Performing Arts. More information about the GALA season can be found online.


Review: HADESTOWN at National Theatre Photo
Review: HADESTOWN at National Theatre

When the cast of “Hadestown” emerge on stage at the National Theatre waving to the waiting audience, they’re received with cheers like old friends. 

World Premieres & More Set for The Washington Ballet 2023-24 Season Photo
World Premieres & More Set for The Washington Ballet 2023-24 Season

The Washington Ballet has announced their 2023-2024 season. The company will present four productions that showcase a diverse range of artistic excellence from classical to contemporary masterworks in addition to two auxiliary performances. Learn how to purchase tickets!

Theater J Reveals Lineup For 2023-24 Season Photo
Theater J Reveals Lineup For 2023-24 Season

Theater J has announced its 2023-2024 season, the first season planned by the theater’s new Artistic Director, Hayley Finn. Featuring world premiere productions, the debut of a solo play series, and an abundance of new works by emerging writers within the American theater landscape, this season builds on Theater J’s legacy as a home for exceptional new work within Washington, DC and throughout the country.

Review: INCENDIARY at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Photo
Review: INCENDIARY at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Let me tell you a bit about myself. Even before the death of George Floyd and the political earthquake that followed, I have long been of the opinion that drastic and systemic changes are needed in the American judicial system. When I covered Gaithersburg city government for the Montgomery Sentinel, I took a knee during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the city council meetings. I do the same when the 'Star Spangled Banner' plays at Washington Nationals games. On the wall above my desk where I'm writing this, I have tacked up the front page of the Washington Post from April 21, 2021, announcing Derek Chauvin's conviction for murder the previous day. I oppose the death penalty. I admire works that effectively explore generational trauma and make use of innovative storytelling techniques, including blending genres. For all these reasons, when I read the description of 'Incendiary,' written by Dave Harris and directed by Monty Cole, which recently opened at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, I expected to like it. I didn't.

From This Author - Roger Catlin

Roger Catlin, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a Washington D.C.-based arts writer whose work appears regularly in and AARP the Magazine. He has a... (read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# The Holy O
Capital Fringe- RIND Theatre (7/16-7/23)
#repshow# in[i]# Victorian Lyric Opera Company presents “H.M.S. Pinafore”
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre (6/09-6/18)
#repshow# in[i]# Nate the Great
Imagination Stage (6/21-8/11)
#repshow# in[i]# Rockville Little Theatre presents "Communicating Doors"
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre (9/22-10/01)
#repshow# in[i]# Broadway in the Park featuring Lea Salonga
Wolf Trap (6/16-6/16)
#repshow# in[i]# Passing Strange
Signature Theatre (4/25-6/18)
#repshow# in[i]# Victorian Lyric Opera Company presents "The Sorcerer"
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre (8/31-9/02)
#repshow# in[i]# NSO: Dispatch
Filene Center at Wolf Trap (7/21-7/21)
#repshow# in[i]# Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Wolf Trap (8/05-8/05)
#repshow# in[i]# KUMANANA! An Afro-Peruvian Musical Revue
GALA Hispanic Theatre (6/07-6/25)

Recommended For You