ARRABAL opened last night in Toronto, and is a real labour of love for Tony Award Winner Sergio Trujillo. He’s well known on the Broadway scene for his incredibly choreography work on shows such as Jersey Boys and Memphis, but with ARRABAL he steps into the role of Director to tell a story that he’s clearly passionate about.
He’s assembled a world class team to work with him, and they’ve been crafting the show in Argentina in preparation for it’s World Premiere in Toronto. While there is still work that needs to be done, ARRABAL has much worthy of praise.
Billed as a ‘tango-rock-opera’, the show tells the story of doomed revolutionary Rodolfo (Julio Zurita), who is captured and killed by the Argentinian military during the rein of General Jorge Rafael Videla in the late seventies. He leaves behind a newborn daughter, Arrabal (Micaela Spina) who, upon turning 18, is inspired by a vision to go off in search of the truth about what happened to her father.
The show goes back and forth between 1979 and 1997, with rapid set and lighting changes and inventive projections showcasing what era the characters are currently in. The cast is uniformly strong, alternating between many different roles depending on the decade and displaying incredible energy and versatility in dance styles.
Arrabal’s story is both beautiful and tragic, and Academy Award Winning Composer Gustavo Santaolalla has penned some incredible music to help her tell her tale. The dance is what one would expect from Trujillo and Julio Zurita – it’s inventive, fresh, and heart stopping. This is not the tango of your parent’s generation, it’s re-vamped, sexed up and ready to welcome a new generation to the theatre.
In addition to the sizzling dancing, Santaolalla’s music soars thank to the work of the on-stage band Orquestra Bajofonderos. Well known all over South America for their unique style of rock, they delivered over and over again with tunes that were equally powerful and sensual.
However, sometimes looks aren’t enough and that is where ARRABAL begins to flounder. The show has almost all the necessary ingredients for a bonafide hit, but the John Weidman’s book still needs work. At times the story felt flat, and a plot this fiery should never feel flat. In addition, the creative team still needs to work on clarifying a few of the moments in the show as there seemed to be obvious confusion among the audience.
That being said, these are minor problems which can certainly be corrected with some additional time and love. In my opinion, where ARRABAL can really leave it’s mark is by the unique way in which it invites the audience to be part of the action. The production boasts free pre-show tango lessons, there is on-stage seating where audience members will quite literally get a chance to ‘be a part of the action’ and from the moment you enter The Panasonic Theatre, you feel as though you’ve been transported into a milonga.
At a time where figuring out how to get young people into the theatre is a daunting issue plaguing both theatre companies and producers, Trujillo has found a way to reach out to the next generation of theatre goers. By creating something that pushes the envelope, is outside the ‘traditional norm’ and oozes sex he’s certain to raise a few eyebrows, and ARRABAL welcomes the curious with open arms.
ARRABAL is on stage now at The Panasonic Theatre until May 11th. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at www.mirvish.com
For more information about the on-stage seating or the pre-show tango lessons please click here