Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
Kiss My Aztec!
Book by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone; based on a filmscript by John Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky.
Lyrics by David Kamp, Benjamin Velez and John Leguizamo. Music by Benjamin Velez. Directed by Tony Taccone. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"Make the Impossible Possible"
The Spanish, historically, wiped out the Aztec culture and civilization in Mexico. However, In John Leguizamo's new Broadway-bound musical "Kiss My Aztec!" their world survives the fierce battle between the two races, the native-American world and the "White People on Boats." In this very comical stage-piece the Aztecs live on in the only ways possible for Leguizamo: with fine wit, superb dancing, stunning production values and romantic love, straight, gay and self-involved. The show, which originated at Berkeley Rep in California is on stage at Harford Stage for most of the month of June, gay pride month, and is stunning audiences with its silliness, its beauty and its talent. With a cast of thirteen players working very hard for two and a half hours playing both sides the show has a story that carries through without pause (except for the intermission) intending, and managing, to delight.
There is at the center of things the awkward romance between Colombina, the amazingly butch Aztec princess and Pepe, a Spaniard who prefers the company of his sock puppets to that of other people. She is played by Krystina Alabado; he is played by Joel Perez. Pepe is one of the funniest heroes in the American musical theatre, unrivalled in silliness yet sincere in all things. She is an almost unlikeable heroine, fierce, defiant and masculine in both appearance and action. Just the thought of putting them together, examining their mutual attraction is a funny idea and very much in keeping with Leguizamo's history. A second romance exists between the adopted prince of the Spanish conquerors - destined to marry for political reasons - and his lover, a priest whose red "dress" marks him for gay romance. The third love affair is that of the Spanish princess Pilar, played by Desiree Rodrigiuez, whose self-love overwhelms every attempt at romance elsewhere, and does she ever try (she and her intended husband are brother and sister through adoption and also aunt and nephew). The entire company of players are Hispanic and their accents made the very rapid dialogue occasionally impossible to understand. Director Tony Tacconen has directed the show at a frenetic pace.
From the audience point of view the highlight of this musical comedy is the dancing. Choreographer Mayte Natalio keeps most of the company moving most of the time. They are fun to watch, and the music and dance almost provoke movement from the audience as well. For a plot that includes witchcraft, phony French from phony Frenchmen, two cultures in conflict, gay romance (the song "Tango in the Closet" is hilarious) and a blood red moon heralding the arrival of "The Great Brown Hope," the show's physical production plays almost as great a role as the actors. The sets and costumes by Clint Ramos are unique and fun calling up memories of classic Broadway concepts and techniques. The lighting by Alexander V. Nichols is gorgeous and the sound design by Jessica Paz and Beth Lake does what it can do in this particular space to make certain the audience can hear the words. It would help a great deal to have the singers of the songs identified in the program so that the ensemble members could be better identified and acknowledged. Suffice it to say, the company is uniformly terrific.
You don't need to know much more about this show anyway, other that it is great fun and well-worth your time and attention/ See it while you can!
+ 06/11/2022 +