On Feb 13th, Toronto audiences get the pleasure of witnessing a World Premiere musical by Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis). ARRABAL is a unique new theatrical experience, part musical, part dance show and part ‘tango opera’, it was conceived and directed by Trujillo with choreography by Julio Zurita and music by multiple Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla and his band Bajofondo.
ARRABAL tells the story of a young girl who enters the underground world of Buenos Aires’ tango clubs in search of the truth about her father. Along the way she grows as a person and blossoms into a woman, while the unique sound of Bajofondo provides the musical inspiration and accompaniment. The story is set against the backdrop of the political violence that threatened to destroy Argentina in the 1970s, and the production brings with it to Toronto the original Argentinean team.
Sergio, a proud Canuck with multiple smash hit Broadway shows under his belt, spoke to me about his passion for this show, the reasons he chose Toronto for its World Premiere and his desire to inspire a younger generation to fall in love with the theatre.
Congratulations on the World Premiere of ARRABAL in Toronto! What can you tell us about the production?
I’m really excited about this project, it’s out of my comfort zone in terms of what I’m creating and it’s been a really unique and interesting process and one that I’m extremely excited about. I’m creating something original and fresh. We’re billing it as a tango rock opera and it’s a fusion of music and dance – specifically tango rock. It’s set against the political backdrop of violence which threatened to destroy Argentina in the 1970s.
Where did the inspiration for this show come from?
Fifteen years ago I ventured into a record store and found this interesting CD of Latin Rock by Bajofondo. It was unique, theatrical and phenomenal music and I remember thinking that one day I would like to do something with it. Two and half years ago Gustavo Santaolalla contacted me because he was interested in creating something using his music, and I met him and we instantly clicked.
I offered to go to Argentina and immerse myself in the culture so that we could talk and decide on what we were going to create. His idea was about a girl who lives in the slums of Argentina, goes into the city and finds a tango bar where she meets a man and through their relationship blossoms into a woman.
I wanted something a bit more original and meaty, so we came up with the idea of her venturing into the city in search of her father, and the story is her journey to find out what really happened to him. By the end, she has evolved into a woman.
Can you tell us more about Bajofondo’s music and how it works in the story?
They’re a hugely successful band all over the world who create very theatrical music. There are elements of rock opera in this show as well, and we have brought the entire band to Toronto to perform with us. I’ve got the original Argentinean cast from when we workshopped the production there because I feel it’s important to present this work with the people who helped create it.
What was the response like when you did the workshops in Argentina?
I felt that those audiences were a great barometer for me in terms of how authentic and true I was to the story, and the response was wonderful.
What made you choose Toronto for ARRABAL to have its World Premiere?
I’m Canadian and I’m from Toronto, so I’m always looking for ways to infuse that community with more original material and more theatre. In addition, David Mirvish and Brian Sewell have been incredibly supportive of me and my career so I felt it was a good place to work on the show.
This isn’t a traditional ‘Broadway’ type show, and I felt that for its World Premiere it would be better in Toronto because I didn’t want it to be pigeon-holed into the ‘Broadway show’ idea. It is something completely new and different and is more of a theatrical ‘event’.
Despite it differing from more traditional Broadway fare, do you think it could play to a Broadway audience?
I think so, especially because the material is universal. It has political themes, and tells a story that everyone can easily relate to. Plus the music is unique and the dancing is incredible so I think it could appeal to that audience.
Given that it’s a story told entirely through dance, does a person need to have an inherent appreciation for dance in order to enjoy it?
I don’t think so. There’s a lot to love about this show. Everyone loves tango. The music, even if you remove the dancing, is so unique and spectacular that you can’t help but be seduced by it.
Finally, do you think it can appeal to a younger generation and help bring them into the theatre?
It is my love letter to a younger audience. I grew up in Toronto and can’t wait to share it with that audience. I want to coax out the younger crowd, unite fans of Bajofondo and recruit a new generation of theatre goers.
I want to make theatre hip, sexy and stimulating, and I think Arrabal does that.
Arrabal is on stage at The Panasonic Theatre from Feb 4th to April 20th 2014. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at www.mirvish.com
Bonus On-Stage Seating and Pre-Show Tango Lessons>
In keeping with Sergio’s passion for doing things differently and truly engaging an audience, ARRABAL has two unique opportunities surrounding the show to help incorporate the audience into the action.
The first is on-stage ‘cabaret seating’ which will allow people to watch the show from on the stage and in the first row of the theatre where audience members are promised to feel the ‘heat and power’ of the dancers first hand.
The second is pre-show tango lessons. Ticket holders can show up 45 minutes before each performance for free tango lessons taught by members of the cast. Space is limited so it’s recommended that interested patrons show up early.