Henry Cardenas & David Maldonado
“The Life and Music of Celia Cruz”
Book by Carmen Rivera & Candido Tirado
Directed by Jaime Azpilicueta
New World Stages
Starring: Xiomara Laugart as Celia Cruz
Featuring: Modesto Lacén, Pedro Capó, Selenis Leyva,
Sunilda Caraballo, Grizel “Chachi” Del Valle, Anissa Gathers,
Sekou McMiller, Wilson Mendieta, Elvis Nolasco
Scenic Design: Narelle Sissons
Lighting Design: Sarah Sidman
Costume Design: Haydée Morales
Production Design: Jan Hartley
Production Stage Manager: Elis C. Arroyo
Sound Design: Bernard Fox
Hair & Makeup Design: Ruth Sanchez
Casting: Orpheus Group Casting
Production Manager: Peter Dean
Associate Producer: Gerry Fojo
Executive Producer: Daddy Yankee
Company Manager: Michael Heitzler
General Manager: Cesa Entertainment, Inc.
Musical Director: Isidro Infante
Choreography/Production Supervision: Maria Torres
Dance Captain: Wilson Mendieta
Piano: Isidro Infante
Bass: Diomedes Matos
Timbal and Percussion: Anderson Quintero
Congas and Percussion: Carlos Padron
Trés and Bongos: Nelson Gonzalez
Trumpet and Keyboards: Nelson Jaime, Raul Agraz
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 15, 2008
(Read Celia Cruz Bio)
Celia is one of the most engaging, exciting, and energizing musicals I have seen in some time. There is heat, poignancy, pathos, and rhythm galore. I saw this play on the “English night” and will return to see it in Spanish. Once you know the story, it’s better to hear the native inflection and innuendo that enhance this mesmerizing musical. Celia Cruz was a renowned Cuban salsa singer. She performed in the United States, New Jersey, and many Latin American countries. She won the National Medal of Arts, Grammys, gold albums, and sang with Tito Puente and Johnny Pacheco. Celia is a musical tribute to this truly human woman, who was blessed with a husband who gave up his own career to manage her and follow her and care for her, during illness, triumph, and death.
Carmen Rivera, Candido Tirado, and Jaime Azpilicueta have created a superb tribute to this international star through unique devices, going backwards and forwards in time, simultaneously, so that Celia Cruz is portrayed by two actors, one for music and one for drama, Pedro Knight is portrayed by one person, but back and forth in voice and mannerism, the male Nurse is portrayed back and forth, and he even sings and dances, and even plays the guitar at the end. There are theatrical devices that work well, to give the viewer a sense of the depth of this diva’s daring biography. Another device is the filmed media and sound enhancements that evoke Cuba, audiences, concerts, and travel. Even Fidel Castro has an implied cameo, as he requests a song, that’s fully denied.
Celia Cruz had been banned from her homeland by Castro, and she was not allowed home for her mother’s funeral. The only trip Cruz was allowed was one to Guantanamo Bay, and the bag of earth she saved was added to her own burial in the Bronx, after a bout with cancer. All of this drama seamlessly unfolded onstage tonight, with added music, media, characters switching roles and time, and a strong dash of salsa, the dance-song salsa, that is. Xiomara Laugart, as the musical Cruz, is a tall, irresistible, and bewitching figure in Haydée Morales’ glitzy costumes. Selenis Leyva, as the dramatic Cruz, is captivating and persuasive. Modesto Lacén, as Cruz’ beloved husband, in thick white hair, moves from an elderly limp to frisky lover in moments of backward time.
Pedro Capó also moves in time, but with less dramatic change. He is the constant that glues the chronology, and his talent is bursting with spontaneity. The ensemble can dance, sing, and act in minor roles that bring the story line to fruition. Director, Jaime Azpilicueta, keeps the pace lively, without sacrificing salient moments. Isidro Infante’s music and band, on both sides of the stage, are worth the visit alone, as they are authentic salsa musicians with nuance and rhythm. Narelle Sisson’s simple sets and Jan Hartley’s fascinating projection design enhance the action with visual immediacy. Kudos to Celia Cruz.
Xiomara Laugart as Celia Cruz
Courtesy of Erika Rojas
Xiomara Laugart and Modesto Lacén as Pedro Knight
Courtesy of Erika Rojasr
Xiomara Laugart and Pedro Capó
Courtesy of Erika Rojas
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