Directed by Sergei Tumas, Music Direction by Cristian Zarate and Choreography by Iván Leonardo Romero and Silvana Nuñez, Tango the Musical is a tribute to legendary Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), on the centennial of his birth. Piazzolla, whose heralded “new tango” revolutionized both music and dance, ushered in a new generation of creativity honoring a traditional form.

The two-hour program is described as “A modern love story rooted in Greek mythology, this musical in two acts takes place against the backdrop of social and political turmoil during the historic “Argentina’s Dirty War” (1976-1984) and remembered as “Los Desaparecidos.’”

The cast of 11 world-champion Argentine tango couples are accompanied by a 10-piece group of  Latin Grammy Award winning tango musicians under the musical direction of pianist Cristian Zárate. The musical ensemble is featured in instrumental numbers that alternate between most of the dance works. Those music interludes clear the path for the ever-changing dances, beginning with a Milonga (social dance gathering) and flowing toward more highly theatrical and athletic expression.

I first heard of Astor Piazzolla the night I first HEARD him, with a newly formed sextet, playing at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC in 1989.  I had no idea who or what I was going to experience. My dance teacher asked if I was planning to go hear him, and when I asked who he was talking about, he TOLD me I was joining him at the theater. It was one of the most enchanting evenings of my life. I will never forget it. It was the beginning of my love for tango in all its aspects, especially that found on the social dance floor.

Tango the Musical took me right back to that magical night, and beyond. It is a nearly sacred gift to be able to take a traditional form and respectfully play with it and take it someplace new. Many attempts fall flat.  Tango the Musical soared.

Cast of "Tango The Musical" by Sergei Tumas - Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group

Cast of “Tango The Musical” by Sergei Tumas – Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group

The music was clear, pure Piazzolla, fresh for today. The ensemble played with finesse and expressed deep emotion, ranging from soft, sweet romance to dark disturbance. The dancing was also wide ranging in feel, performed with precision and unbridled passion.  The choreography was crisp and deft, exploring both traditional partner dance and other stage figures for small and large groups. The unison movement was razor sharp and nearly made the stage explode at times when performed by the large group. The narrative quality was strong, and clear enough to convey the many facets of the historic period, whether or not you knew the story. The use of musical and movement dynamics propelled the program from beginning to end.  The sequence felt logical and clear. The elements of stage production were crafted with the same attention to detail and dedication to expression. The lighting was a miracle – keeping a quiet darkness which felt cozy and romantic, and always carefully illuminating the artists so that we missed nothing. The wardrobe ranged from simple to sensual, and served the character of each piece beautifully. The depth of artistry was brilliant, and equal, in all aspects of the production.

Tango can have moments of deep darkness, and that quality was represented in a rightly disturbing dance work depicting the horrors foisted upon women of Buenos Aries by the callous military dictatorship in power during the upheaval in the 1970s – ‘80s.

Dancers in "Tango The Musical" by Sergei Tumas - Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group

Dancers in “Tango The Musical” by Sergei Tumas – Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group

The joy of dancing tango was cleverly illustrated in a dance work with a backdrop of chess pieces, and the stage lit in a grid of circles by Lighting Designer Anibal Corrado. The dancers entered the stage and assembled on opposite sides. As the dancers moved, one by one, into the illuminated circles, they danced together when they met, as if they were chess figures. A wonderful metaphor for the play of dancing tango with a partner!

All these words – to say that we heard and felt the sizzle of tango, in all of its nuance and fire, from beginning to end.

The incredible cast of dancers included Camil Alegre, Ariel Almiron, Johana Aranda, Juan Cabral, Melody Celatti, Cesar Davalos, Eliana De Bartolis, Alumine Deluchi, Esteban Domenichini, Carla Dominguez, Yesica Esquivel, Hector Fernandez, Ariel Leguizamon, Ezequiel Lopez, Yesica Lozano, Juan Malizia, Roxana Marinoff, Silvana Nunez, Ivan Leonardo Romero, Manuela Rossi, Julio Seffino, and Matias Vidoni.

The extraordinary musicians for Tango the Musical were Christian Zarate (Piano), Horacio Romo (Bandoneon), Lautaro Greco (Bandoneon), Pablo Agri (Violin), Estaban Falabella (Electric Guitar), Abel Rogantini (Keyboard), Karmen Rencar (Cello), Juan Palbo Navarro (Upright Bass), and Joes Juis Colzani (Drums).

Viviana Laguzzi was the Costume Designer for the women’s wardrobe and for the men it was Cesar Ramos.

The virtual performance was sponsored by Center Theatre Group Digital Stage March 25  – 28, 2021.  Four live performances are scheduled to be presented (with limited capacity) at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills in May.

To visit the Tango the Musical website, click HERE.

To visit the Center Theatre Group Digital Stage website, click HERE.

Written by Mary Pat Cooney for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Cast of Tango The Musical by Sergei Tumas – Photo courtesy of Center Theatre Group