Cuba’s New Musical Revue “Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha” Primed for Export to the U.S.

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.

Issac Delgado

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.

Toledo Earns Her First Tony Award Nomination

She may be known for the looks she sends down the runway, but Isabel Toledo has just earnedkudos for her inspired work on Broadway.

The 53-year-old Cuban fashion designer has received her first Tony Award nomination in the category of best costume design for a musical.

Isabel Toledo

“It’s fantastic. The nomination is a big deal,” Toledo told Women’s Wear Daily. “Who expected it?”

Toledo earned the nomination for designing the costumes for After Midnight, a musical ode to the Twenties and such Harlem hot spots as the Cotton Club and the Savoy.

Toledo was recognized for her tailored zoot suits and top hats and tails for the men and glamorous dresses with Swarovski crystal for the women.

“My main objective was to make the garment feel like music. Every dress took into account the music and the choreography. It’s a musical about music. I wanted to give it the memory of jazz, but still keep it alive,” said Toledo, who designed more than 100 costumes for “After Midnight,” which got seven nominations, including Best Musical.

After Midnight Costume Sketch by Isabel Toledo

Toledo said her husband Ruben received the phone call Tuesday morning while she was in the shower. “I almost drowned, I was so happy,” said the nominee.

Although she has designed costumes for Twyla Tharp, this is the first time she has designed costumes for a Broadway show.

Toledo is up against Linda Cho for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” William Ivey Long for Bullets Over Broadway and Arianne Phillips for Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

The Tonys will take place on June 8 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Here’s a look at all the Tony Award nominees:

Best Play
“Act One”
“All the Way”
“Casa Valentina”
“Mothers and Sons”
“Outside Mullingar”

Best Musical
“After Midnight”
“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Revival of a Play
“The Cripple of Inishmaan”
“The Glass Menagerie”
“A Raisin in the Sun”
“Twelfth Night”

Best Revival of a Musical
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
“Les Miserables”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Samuel Barnett, “Twelfth Night”
Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”
Chris O’Dowd, “Of Mice and Men”
Mark Rylance, “Richard III”
Tony Shalhoub, “Act One”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Tyne Daly, “Mothers and Sons”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, “A Raisin in the Sun”
Cherry Jones, “The Glass Menagerie”
Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
Estelle Parsons, “The Velocity of Autumn”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Neil Patrick Harris, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Ramin Karimloo, “Les Miserables”
Andy Karl, “Rocky”
Jefferson Mays, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
Bryce Pinkham, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Mary Bridget Davies, “A Night with Janis Joplin”
Sutton Foster, “Violet”
Idina Menzel, “If/Then”
Jesse Mueller, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
Kelly O’Hara, “The Bridges of Madison County”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, “Casa Valentina”
Paul Chahidi, “Twelfth Night”
Stephen Fry, “Twelfth Night”
Mark Rylance, “Twelfth Night”
Brian J. Smith, “The Glass Menagerie”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Sarah Green, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”
Celia Keenan-Bolger, “The Glass Menagerie”
Sophie Okonedo, “A Raisin in the Sun”
Anika Noni Rose, “A Raisin in the Sun”
Mare Winningham, “Casa Valentina”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein, “Cabaret”
Nick Codero, “Bullets Over Broadway”
Joshua Henry, “Violet”
James M. Iglehart, “Aladdin”
Jarrod Specter, “Bullets Over Broadway”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Linda Emond, “Cabaret”
Lena Hall, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Anika Larson, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
Adriane Lenox, “After Midnight”
Lauren Worsham, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Direction of a Play
Tim Carroll, “Twelfth Night”
Michael Grandage, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”
Kenny Leon, “A Raisin in the Sun”
John Tiffany, “The Glass Menagerie”

Best Direction of a Musical
Warren Carlyle, “After Midnight”
Michael Mayer, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Leigh Silverman, “Violet”
Darko Tresnjak, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Book of a Musical
Chad Beguelin, “Aladdin”
Douglas McGrath, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
Woody Allen, “Bullets Over Broadway”
Robert L. Friedman, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater
“Aladdin” (Music: Alan Menkin; Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Begeulin)
“The Bridges of Madison County” (Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown)
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (Music: Steven Lutvak; Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak)
“If/Then” (Music: Tom Kitt; Lyrics: Brian Yorkey)

Best Choreography
Warren Carlyle, “After Midnight”
Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, “Rocky”
Casey Nicholaw, “Aladdin”
Susan Stroman, “Bullets Over Broadway”

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, “Bullets Over Broadway”
Jason Robert Brown, “The Bridges of Madison County”
Steve Sidwell, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”
Jonathan Tunick, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, “Act One”
Bob Crowley, “The Glass Menagerie”
Es Devlin, “Machinal”
Christopher Oram, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christopher Barreca, “Rocky”
Julian Crouch, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Alexander Dodge, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
Santo Loquasto, “Bullets Over Broadway”

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, “Act One”
Michael Krass, “Machinal”
Rita Ryack, “Casa Valentina”
Jenny Tiramani, “Twelfth Night”

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
William Ivey Long, “Bullets Over Broadway”
Arianne Philips, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Isabel Toledo, “After Midnight”

Best Sound Design of a Play
Alex Baranowski, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”
Steve Canyon Kennedy, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
Dan Moses Schreier, “Act One”
Matt Tierney, “Machinal”

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, “After Midnight”
Tim O’Heir, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Mick Potter, “Les Miserables”
Brian Ronan, “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical”

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”
Jane Cox, “Machinal”
Natasha Katz, “The Glass Menagerie”
Japhy Wideman, “Of Mice and Men”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Christopher Akerlind, “Rocky”
Howell Binkley, “After Midnight”
Donald Holder, “The Bridges of Madison County”

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Jane Greenwood

Regional Theatre Award
Signature Theatre

Isabelle Stevenson Award
Rosie O’Donnell

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Joseph P. Benincasa
Joan Marcus
Charlotte Wilcox