The Legendary Celia Cruz

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[Reviews: Plays]

This journalist has been on a theatrical whirl and in doing so had the opportunity to view “Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz.” 

I highly recommend this musical, featured in both English and Spanish.  The play is entertaining, poignant, and engaging.  Via this production the audience is introduced to the famed singer through the eyes and narration of Cruz’s husband, Pedro Knight (Modesto Lacen).  It’s a love story that takes you through Cuban born Celia’s humble beginnings and triumphant rise to fame ended only by her death in July 2003.

Written by Carmen Rivera and Candido Tirado, directed by Jaime Azpilicueta, produced by Henry Cardenas and David Maldonado, Celia: The Life and Music of Celica Cruz is currently running at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue) in Manhattan.  Tickets must be purchased directly from the World Stage Box Office or by calling Telecharge, and/or on line via

The Box Office is open from noon to 9:00 p.m. Mondays–Thursdays; on Fridays 1:00 -11:00 pm; Saturdays at noon-11:00 pm, and on Sundays from 1:00-7:00 pm. The Spanish version runs Monday through Friday with the English version on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m., and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.

Xiomara Laugart Sanchez who stars as Celia Cruz does an excellent job at capturing the facial expressions, mannerisms, and vocal acumen of the late Salsa Queen.  Sanchez floats through each scene regaled in brilliant costumes that are reminiscent of the outfits Ms. Cruz wore during her performances.  So adept is Xiomara at portraying Celia, if one closed their eyes they would think that they were being serenaded by the genuine article as she belts out songs like “Caramelos,” “Tu Voz,” “La Guarachera,” “Yo Vivire,” “El Guaba,” “Gucula,” “Quimbara,” Mexico Lindo,” and “Cao Cao Mani Picao.”  Kudos go to costume designer Haydee Morales who designed stunning and colorful costumes that were meretriciously ostentatious yet tasteful at the same time. 

The costumes, band (consisting of Isidro Infante, Diomedes Matos, Luisito Quintero, Robert Quintero, Nelson Gonzlez, Nelson Jaime and Raul Agraz), and dance numbers, provide glitz and glamour to an otherwise modest set.  How else could one produce a show on Celia if not by displaying her humility and modesty; after all, it was those qualities that made her the grand dame she was - therefore, while the show is not a Broadway spectacular it is spectacular nonetheless. 

Born Úrsula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso in Havana, Cuba, Celia’s life, career, and marriage is sensitively portrayed by Selenis Leyva who plays the younger Cruz.  Knight, Cruz’s husband, sacrificed his career playing trumpet with the Sonoro Matancera band to help guide Celia’s career whom he married in 1962 after fleeing Cuba in 1960.  The couple moved to Miami, Florida never returning to their homeland again except for a brief visit to Guantanamo Bay.  Cast include: Pedro Capo, Selenis Leyva, Anissa Gathers, Sunilda Caraballo, Elvis Nolasco, Joselyn Reyes, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Lai-Si Fernández, Wilson Mendieta, Grizel “Chachi” Del Valle, and Sekou McMiller.  Go see this play not once, but twice.

Three Mo’ Tenors
are presently performing at the Little Shubert Theatre, located at 422 West 42nd Street, (bet. 9th Avenue and Dyer).  The 2 sets of exceptional singers are a real stylistic tour de force.  Classically trainned, the two sets of 3 tenors move fluently and with panache through several musical genres.  Unlike the reviewer from The New York Times who used the catch phrase “slum” when he referred to Three Mo’s transitioning from one musical genre to another, this reviewer can appreciate how difficult it is to reach all the highs and lows, trills, vibratos, and notes demanded of this force musicale dynamique de trois.  These African American tenors are hardly slumming as they move with fluidity through classical, Broadway show tunes, R&B, Pop, Blues, Spirituals and even rap music.

Depending on what evening you attend, you can either see James Berger, Jr, Duane A. Moody and Victor Robertson performing or witness the vocal prowess of Kenneth D. Alston, Jr, Ramone Diggs and South African Phumzile Sojola.  The production has toured parts of Europe and the United States, changing numbers and redefining itself as it seeks to produce the best show possible.   It succeeded. Some of the numbers are amusing and call for audience participation such as Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”  Other songs include: “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Make Them Hear You,” “Ordinary People,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Midnight Train to Georgia” and a host of others.

Produced by Willette Murphy Klausner and directed and choreographed by Marion J. Caffey, the show promises an evening of entertainment, fun and pure musical magic at reasonable prices.  Go support “Three Mo’ Tenors.”  You will be glad you did.

Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening
featured at the 47th Street Theatre (304 West 47th Street), is celebrating its 25th year of lampooning the Great White Way with parodies of Spring Awakening, Grease, Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Grey Gardens, Curtains, et al.  Written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini, Rude Awakening features Jared Bradshaw, Janet Dickinson, James Donegan, and Valerie Fagen who have an uproarious time spoofing Broadway’s current offerings.  A recipient of a Tony for Excellence in Theatre in 2006, the show runs Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 pm and Sundays at 7:30 pm, with matinees on Wednesdays at 2:30 pm, Saturdays at 4:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:30 pm.  For tickets call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200.  For Group Sales call (212) 840-5564.

Uptown theatre goers can “Tell-It, Sing-It, Shout-It”, at The National Black Theatre, located on 125th Street and Fifth Ave, October 5 – 14th, via Hazel Smith’s uproarious gospel musical. Smith wrote, directed, and stars in this amusing offering which witnesses the shenanigans between 6 sanctimonious church ladies whose testimonials are sure to elicit a giggle, warm the heart, and define the human spirit.

Don’t miss it! Performances are Fridays 7:30 p.m., Saturdays 2 & 7:30 p.m., Sundays 3 p.m.).  For tickets call (212) 722-3800.


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