In the US we cherish our legendary singers, Presleys and Sinatras, Garlands and Fitzgeralds, even more perhaps because they are dead. In Latin America there is Carlos Gardel, the French-born Argentinian who sealed his enduring celebrity by dying at the age of 45 in a plane crash. He brought tango to the world between the wars, his gigolo good looks and captivating voice boosted by his ability to write hits like “Mi Buenos Aires querido” (My dear Buenos Aires) and delivering them with enthralling intensity, made him a world-class entertainer.
Cast in the role of this idol, Puerto Rican Miguel Ramos brings a resonant baritone and surprising nimbleness to his dance scenes choreographed by Modesto Lacén, who has ingeniously woven tango variations through the show. He is aided by soloists Ana Padrón, who boasts a ballet dancer’s high leg extensions, and Diego Blanco, providing the frowning, sexy look requisite of tango’s males.
All the cast moves well. The opening scene is particularly effective: the troupe, portraying immigrants, advances down stage performing the same slow circling motion with their feet; they line up and reverse in a simple pattern, effectively demonstrating Lancen’s expert use of the theatre’s tiny stage.
Director Lynette Salas has managed to tame Eladio Cintrón’s wildly episodic book, which jumps from scene to scene with the assumption that audiences are already familiar with Gardel’s life story. I found the assistance of translating earphones little help in following the plot as temperaments were torn to tatters and one melodramatic moment followed another. But the music, including the always exciting Astor Piazzola tangos, saved the day.
Gardel’s career spanned every aspect of entertainment from recordings to cabaret, theatre, radio and films, several for Paramount including such titles as El Tango On Broadway. Ramos does his best with what he has and is supported by Mónica Steuer as his long-suffering mother and Lancen as his theatre partner. Gardel may not be the epitome of musical bios, but adds a worthy name to this growing incarnation of pop immortals. ★★★☆☆
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