FUNNY PIRATES AND FIERY TANGO

By:  Hal de Becker

 

Two diverse forms of theatrical art that are invariably identified with two different countries are the Tango of Argentina and the comic operas of England’s Gilbert (words) and Sullivan (music). 

 

Las Vegans had the opportunity to experience both recently with Tango Malambo at Winchester Cultural Center and Pirates of Penzance at Ham Hall.  

 

‘Pirates’ received a witty and visually colorful performance from the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players and Tango’s production of music and dance was exciting and authentic.

 

In ‘Pirates,’ G&S poked fun at aspects of their mid-19th century period.  ‘Pirate’s quick popularity may have reflected the then public’s growing dissatisfaction with the frequently hypocritical restraints of Victorian morality.   

 

The not-always-brave Pirates, bumbling policemen and timid lovers were just a few of the targets of G&S jibes.  

 

Not even Queen and Country escaped a bit of self-mockery directed at the exaggerated Victorian sense of duty. At one point, upon merely being shown a portrait of Queen Victoria the pirates immediately abandoned their wicked ways (nice if that would happen in Washington).

 

The cast delivered a stylish performance of outstanding singing, dancing, acting, mime, and comedy.  Especially effective were David Wannen as Pirate King, David Auxier the Police Sergeant, Sarah Caldwell Smith as Mabel the would-be fiancée of pirate Frederic, Angeline Christine Smith the maid and James Mills the Major-General.  

 

Only Alex Corson as Frederic was disappointing.  His voice - singing and speaking - was thin, lacked projection and was often inaudible.  The tender 2nd Act duet between Frederic and Mabel was marred by their vocal incompatibility: she sang beautifully.

 

Albert Bergeret’s staging and direction of the live orchestra were splendid.  So was Auxier’s choreography, which in one sequence had six ladies moving in a line across the stage twirling parasols at ground level to suggest the wheels of a train.  Also delightful were the rollicking song and dance routines of the policemen.         

 

Lighting, costumes and scenery, particularly Act I’s rocky seashore, were exceptional.  They were credited, respectively, to Benjamin Weill, Gail Woford and Lou Anne Gilleland.     

Hopefully, this gifted troupe will return to Las Vegas with more G&S performances.

Winchester Center’s’ new Cultural Program Supervisor, Irma Varella, had a winner with Tango Malambo. 

 

Maestro Oscar Carrescia, producer, pedagogue and performer, presented the show.  It included a chamber orchestra consisting of seven strings, piano and of course, bandoneon a concertina-like instrument that has become an integral part of tango culture.  

 

Also featured were two tango dance couples of which Daniela Rosal and Claudio Otero were outstanding, and Damian Rivero a consummate artist and exponent of classic tango songs.

 

Under the baton of Maestro Carrescia the orchestra gave superb performances of   compositions by Astor Piazzolla, Manzi, Trioli and other renowned Argentinian tango composers.  Whether poignant and nostalgic or rhythmic and exciting, the music captured exactly the right mood.  

 

Rivero’s singing had the rich, resonant operatic sound associated with the best tango singers.  Most of his songs were devoted to love and the end of love, and his expressive face, hands and emphatic articulation added to the drama of his interpretations. 

 

His singing was so strongly directed to the audience that at times it was as though he was relating to it an intimate episode from his own life. 

 

Rosal and Otero were an attractive couple whose good looks were matched by exceptional dancing.  They covered the stage with broad, graceful moves without sacrificing any of the tango’s passionate intensity. 

 

Their choreography often utilized semi-acro moves – always in tango style, and emphasized harmonious body lines.  Otero’s Gaucho solo with its percussive footwork was a show stopper. 

 

Bandoneon player Javier Sanchez, pianist Michelle Lee and violinist Dmytro Nehrych had especially impressive musical moments. 

 

The stage setting was eye-pleasing with the players lined across a slightly raised platform and appropriately attired in black.  Effective lighting on the red backdrop curtain enhanced the look.

 

The only thing missing was ‘more’.  The audience loved the program and it could have been longer. 

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