Writer: Norge Espinosa
Director: Manuel A. Morán
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
La Gloria: A Latin Cabaret is subtitled further still. It is A Heavenly Musical Celebration of Cuba’s La Sonora Matancera and its Stars, Myrta Silva, Daniel Santos and Celia Cruz! While this is both a mouthful and a potential deterrent to any audience member unfamiliar with the names dropped, it should instead be seen as an overflow of the celebratory and bright designs of the production. La Sonora Matancera was a Cuban band popular for decades, and Silva, Santos, and Cruz all sang with the band at various times, as well as all having their own largely successful solo careers. That is more than enough information to prepare yourself for this production. Primarily, you just need the capacity or desire to experience joy.
The music in this production is taken from the greatest hits of the title musicians’ portfolios. These songs, based on audience members’ reactions and sing-a-longs if not on actual research, are cultural staples from expansive but particular locations and times. They are stitched into a narrative that has just the right amount of plot for a cabaret, so that these historic performers, portrayed by both actors and puppets, may come together for a celebration of life and music. Zenén Calero, head of Production Design, crafted spectacular puppet representations of their real-life counterparts.
This celebration of life takes place in La Gloria, a nightclub in heaven. God is “the boss,” and he produces thunder, lightning and blackouts when the artists rebel and don’t follow the rules, as laid out by management. But rules and threats can’t hold back the passion of the singers in La Gloria, who live their afterlives as they did their lives, with the glory of heaven, the worldly and the divine, and all causes for celebration and song. There is unrequited love, and the burden of eternity, but there is also rum, the rumba, a live band, and homemade food available during intermission.
Sequins abound, as one might expect from any self-respecting Latin Cabaret. There are only so many situations in which it’s hard to have too much sparkle, and La Gloria takes full advantage of being one of those situations, with costume and set design (also by Calero). A nightclub in the clouds is silver, blue, feathered, ruffles, white tuxedos and sparkle. One wonders why the male dancer in white pants wasn’t given a more heavenly option for his underwear, but then again maybe one wonders why more men don’t wear white pants and briefs.
This bilingual production is jubilant, and no less so for an English-speaking audience. Knowing Spanish will expand your relationship with the performance, but as your emcee for the evening says, they will “speak, sing and dance in every language of the world.”
Runs until 6 December 2015 | Image: