It may be a homegrown musical revue, but Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha may soon be heading to the United States.
Previews of the Cuban musical revue started in in Havana on Tuesday night (January 27), the sold-out audience included potential show backers from the U.S.
Directed by Fela choreographer Maija Garcia, with music production overseen by Cuban salsa star Issac Delgado, the show’s chief choreographer is Santiago Alfonso, the founder of Cuba’s Contemporary Dance company. The show’s producer is Debbie Ohanian, who was a pioneer in presenting artists from the island in Miami in the ’90s.
The participation of Delgado (who performs on stage) and other well-known Cuban artists, including Bobby Carcasses and Haila Mompie, would be enough to ensure a long run for the musical in Havana. But Ohanian conceived the production for export.
As its title implies, Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha is styled as a revue showcasing music and culture. It’s in the vein of the recent Broadway homage to jazz After Midnight or the iconic Riverdance.
While Cuban music is evergreen, Ohanian’s timing for the show, which began production last year, couldn’t be better. Not only has curiosity about contemporary Cuba been peaked by the recent talks between President Barack Obama and Raul Castro, but the loosening of embargo regulations should make it easier and less costly to bring the dozens of Cuban musicians and dancers in the production to the United States.
Ohanian is the former owner of Miami Beach’s popular Starfish salsa club and a promoter who brought the Cuba’s popular dance band Los Van Van to Miami for the first time for an arena concert that was met with demonstrations by hundreds of Cuban exiles.
“I think the world is a better place when it listens to Cuban music,” Ohanian says in a promotional video sent to potential Broadway producers and other possible backers.
“Everyone loves Cuban music,” says Garcia, a Cuban-American. “Everyone loves Cuban dance. But what they know is maybe just a little picture [of Cuba]. And that picture is often frozen.”
Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha is set to wipe the standard nostalgic images of pre-revolutionary Cuba from theatergoers minds. The music and dance in the video tease retains the rawness and spontaneity found on the streets of today’s Cuba, enhanced by the seemingly spontaneous talent of a cast of sneaker-wearing professionals who have been trained for the stage since childhood.
“This is the most modern show that has ever come out of Cuba,” says choreographer Alonso. The Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha preview will be staged at Havana’s Mella Theater Jan. 28, 29 and 30.
“When people walk out of the theater they’re definitely going to leave dancing,” says Garcia.