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Thursday, 25 July 2013 11:34

Broadway Review: FOREVER TANGO Sizzles and Fizzles

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Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in Forever Tango on Broadway Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in Forever Tango on Broadway Photo: Walter McBride

Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango has ventured to Broadway two times before (1997 and 2004.)  It’s back for a limited run at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway.  The show entertains but lacks a tonal variety.
The evening is crafted like a Latin variety show with a singing act, dancers, two comedic numbers and an eleven-piece orquesta típica (an orchestra made up of this particular configuration of instruments.)  It is led by 4 bandoneóns (similar to an accordion or concertina) that are a highlight of the show.  Also included are 2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello (played by show creator and director, Luis Bravo), 1 Base, 1 keyboard and 1 piano.

The show doesn’t have a plot.  It’s just a series of musical vignettes that each contain their own story.  It features five-time Grammy Award winner Gilberto Santa Rosa.  Rosa melodramatically delivers each number with a nasally tone but crisp attention to diction.

Ukrainian dancers Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy are special guest stars.  The two found their fame through the reality television show “Dancing with the Stars.”  The two are talented, but the rest of the cast is equally so. 

The show sizzles with raw sexuality as the couples intertwine their bodies with complex interlocking steps.  Congratulations to the dancers who are billed with having created the show’s choreography.  It is complex and beautiful.  The dancers have remarkable skill and proficiency and are incredibly tight.  When a large group of the them appear at one time, they look like a school of fish that can’t help but follow the pattern of the rest of the group.  They move as a single unit.

During one number a couple appeared to have slipped while attempting to nail the final pose at the end of the song.  I bring this up not to find fault but to point out the fact that they covered this so beautifully.  It appeared to most in the audience that it was part of the number (although the woman behind me did let out a gasp.)  The couple precisely hit a pose on the musical button of the number, no hint of a problem on their faces. 

Creator and director Luis Bravo has included a vaudevillian comedic duet in the form of dancers Natalia Turelli and  Ariel Manzanares.  Their first act number involves a patron at a cultural event taking photos and a woman of authority trying to stop him.  This number just wasn’t funny and my calling it comedic is benevolent.    

The típica gives the dancers a break throughout the evening with five orchestral numbers.  The music is beautiful and the musicianship excellent.  This could be an entire concert in itself.  Here, however, it breaks the pace of the show.  The orchestra’s numbers are longer than the dance numbers.    

The show lacks a set designer and a set.  Was someone thinking we wouldn’t have noticed this?  In reality, the dancers are already struggling with a lack of stage depth, they couldn’t have fit any more scenery on the stage.  It would not, however, have required more than a bit of dressing up. 

The front row of musicians all had podium style music stands that appeared to be made of cardboard, taped together with masking tape and spray painted black.  The band members on the second row have simple music stands.  The set consists of black platforms with black skirting.  The orchestra members all wear black and the back wall has a black drop across it.  There was no attention paid to the scenic design of this production.  I would expect more as a paying customer.

The men’s costumes consist largely of black tuxedos and tails.  The women’s costumes bring the only color to the proceedings and those are still dark tones.  The costumes have wonderful texture to them.  We go from beads to satin to velvet, and every combination thereof.  Most of the costumes looked glamorous, but there were a number whose glory days were behind them.    

An oddity of the evening is the orchestra not playing during the second act number danced by the show’s guest stars Smirnoff & Chmerkovskiy.  A pre-recorded track was used.  The production obviously didn’t want to incur the expense of copying the parts for the orchestra for a drop-in act.  The orchestra doesn’t play the music underscoring for the curtain call either.  Having the musicians sitting on stage while this happened made this particularly obvious. 

To say that this show was directed by Bravo is an insult to directors.  The numbers share a sameness.  The expressions on the dancers faces all seemed to share a pouting intensity.  The only number that showed any creativity from a directorial standpoint was the first dance number “El Suburbio.”  This envisions a world where all the women are whores and men are free to pass them around and tussle over them.  It included a mock fight that was choreographed in a slow-motion tableau using the style of tango.  This foreshadowed great unfulfilled hope for the evening.

This show succeeds in spite of itself thanks to the talented dancers.  It’s just a shame that the director doesn’t go for more variety.  The producers also aren’t giving this show 100%, it shows. 

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Walter Kerr Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 219 West 48th St. New York, NY 10036
  • Show Style: Musical
  • Previews:: July 9, 2013
  • Opening Night: July 14, 2013
  • Closing: September 15, 2013
Last modified on Monday, 19 August 2013 11:21