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|A CurtainUp Review
--- Original Review
If the prospect of two hours of watching seven couples perform their version of the tango seems like a bit too much of a good thing, you're right--or not a diehard tango devotee.
If intervals of concertizing by a tango band doesn't sound like the perfect break from the dancing, you're right again--unless you're familiar with the sweet and melancholy sound a virtuoso player can wring from the small Argentine accordion known as the bandoneon.
To further explain why I did not feel compelled to catch Forever Tango before heading for my stint of summer theater coverage. The several years I spent with a Hohner accordion never produced a single sound close to what I heard coming from the four bandoneon players in Lisandro Adrover's band when I spent a better-late-than-never evening at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
During its seven-year odyssey touring the United States and other country, the show has proved itself as a crowd pleaser. However, since it's neither a musical or a revue or the kind of dance event you're likely to see at a venue like the Joyce Theatre or the City Center Ballet, it falls within the province of specialty entertainment easily by-passed by a staff-poor publication like this one. And in case you're curious why I'm reviewing Tango at this late date--
Several readers asked us to fill in this hole in our archives, especially since it's been extended to January and is thus very much an active show. The Forever Tango web site-piqued my curiosity. The number of amateur and professional tango enthusiasts throughout the world is mind-boggling. he photo-rich descriptions of the show's numbers hinted that director and show creator Louis Bravo's passion for the lively and steamy Argentinean dance might have really seeded something more than a nightclub act on the legitimate stage. (see our show fact box at the end for the link to what is one of the best sites devoted to a show I've seen).
To get to the good news first.
I'm glad I saw Forever Tango. Abetted by the fine musicianship of Lisandro Adrover and his 11-piece band, Luis Bravo has indeed realized his vision for a historically arresting dance-illustrated concert rather than a mere variety show. The dancers are terrific-- sexually charged yet true-to-the-tango rigid and precise. They slither and strut and their legs fly like turbo powered scissors. The women are gorgeous and the men magnificently macho. In our youth-crazed society generally and show business world in particular, it is gratifying to see an older dancer, Carlos Gavito, as one of the standouts of the evening. While all the dancers are as expressive in the feelings displayed on their faces as with their bodies, Gavito's interaction with his partner, Marcela Duran, is nothing short of riveting.
The above praises notwithstanding, I did have some difficulty, especially during the first act, getting past the sense that I was either in the middle of a live replay of one of those old movies with elaborate nightclub scenes or at a very professional dance contest. As much as I was taken with the excellence and melancholy richness of the bandoneon music, the orchestral and vocal interludes tended to be less dynamic than the dance numbers. The exception to this was the mournful and moving "Nonino" composed by Astor Piazzolla upon his father's death. (Piazzolla's music has attracted many classical musicians and you can expect to hear it played in the not too distant future by world-class cellist Yo Yo Ma).
For all the performers' adeptness at conveying each number's historic flavor, the show would be more of a theater piece with more distinctly story-line piece like the striking "El Suburbio"" with its "compradito" fight scene and the metaphorical numbers between the bandoneon and its passion for the night danced by Sandor and Tiffany "Preludio del Bandoneon y la Noche" and "Romance del Bandoneon y la Noche."
Judging from the audience "bravos" that greeted each number there are enough tango dancing and tango music buffs out there to keep the intimate Kerr theater filled through this show's run. Not to mention would-be tango dancers -- like the hero of the movie Shall We Dance? and other people (I know of several ranging from their thirties to their sixties) who have recently taken dancing lessons and started to go dancing on a regular basis.
Music being an international language, this is also a good choice for visitors to New York who don't speak English. The large international makeup of the audience on the night I attended was evident not just from the babble of languages overheard--but the large number of smokers who turned the front of the theater into a second-hand smoke danger zone during intermission. To sum up this belated review: Forever Tango is not a history of a people the way 'Bring In Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk is a history of slavery through tap dancing. It's a hybrid of dance documentary, variety show and concert with the focus on one genre, the tango. It may not work as a "regular" theater experience for the whole two hours, but it works for enough of that two hours to give you a sense of Mr. Bravo's passion for the dance which according to him "was bred into my soul."