1997 was a very busy year for theatre in Mexico. And as we celebrate the ending year, Mexico prepares for an even better new year.But first, let's review the two new theatres, six new musicals (two of them Mexican) and new hit plays that are some of the reasons we have to celebrate a very successful year in theatre production.
First, let's take a look to the musical imports we got this year. The Spanish world-premiere of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (La Bella y la Bestia) found a great home in Mexico City as it opened at the new Teatro Orfeon, a former Art Deco movie house which was beautifully restored as a house for big musical productions. The Mexican Beauty opened in May, and will continue to run at the Orfeon until mid-1998, when the production will begin a South American tour that will probably start with an open run in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Spanish world-premiere of the London musical hit Fame (Fama), arrived to the Teatro de los Insurgentes in September with an international cast that includes Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican and Mexican young performers. Directed by Jaime Azpilicueta, this production of Fame will launch a South American tour in May 1998 before winding up to Spain. Fama is produced by Televiteatro, RAC Producciones and Rodven, which is a Venezuela-based entertainment company.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe's Starlight Express (Expreso Astral) received its first Spanish production in Mexico City Dec.12, 1997. The roller-skating musical extravaganza also opened a new theatre, the Teatro Polanco, a movie house built in 1955 that was completely restored as a 1649-seat legitimate theatre. Expreso is produced by Producciones Expreso Astral, a new Mexican company that will be dedicated to producing musicals. Producciones Expreso Astral next venture will be the Mexican premiere of The Phantom Of the Opera in 1999.
Mexican star Rocio Banquells decided to return this year to the stage, repeating her electrifying performance as Eva Peron in a revival Evita. Banquells originated the role in the Mexican premiere production of the show, which was directed by Hal Prince in 1981. Directed by Larry Fuller, the revival of the legendary Lloyd Webber/Rice musical opened Dec. 18 at the Teatro Silvia Pinal, and according to producer Jorge Berlanga, a South & North American tour of this production is planned for 1998 and 1999. Along with the imported musicals, two new Mexican musicals made their way to the stage this year. August saw the arrival of the critically-acclaimed Aventurera, an "interactive" musical drama based on a popular 1949 Mexican film of the same title. Aventurera features an all-star cast headed by Edith Gonzalez, Carmen Salinas and Alejandro Tommassi and it's performed at an actual nightclub: the famous Salon Los Angeles in Mexico City. The musical features a book by Mexican playwright Carlos Olmos (El Eclipse, Fuegos Fatuos), while the musical score is a compilation of famous Rumba, Mambo and Cha-Cha-Cha songs. A special TV documentary on the hit environment-musical is in development and will be aired early 1998 at one of Televisa's channels.
Houdini: La Magia del Amor (Houdini: The Magic of Love) a new original Mexican musical based on the life of the legendary magician-escape artist, "appeared" Nov. 5, 1997 at Mexico's Teatro Benito Juarez. The sung-through musical, which features a score by Antonio Calvo (music) and Patricia Perrin (lyrics), explores Harry Houdini's unique career and his relationships with his possessive mother, Cecilia Weiss; and with his life-long love, Bess Rahner. A cast recording of the magical, mysterious and romantic musical is in the works and will be released January 1998. Songs include "La Magia del Amor" (The Magic of Love), "Mi Decision" (My Resolution) and "Siempre te Amare" (I'll Love You Forever). Produced by OCESA (co-producer of Mexico's Beauty and the Beast), Houdini: La Magia del Amor will continue to run into 1998, while we hear rumors that the producers and creative team of the show are in negotiations with investors to produce the hit musical on Broadway for the 1998-1999 season.
Speaking about plays, the few new non-musical plays 1997 saw were of the best quality. The North American premiere of Yasmina Reza's international hit comedy Art(Arte), starring Hector Bonilla, Claudio Obregon and Rafael Sanchez Navarro opened in September to an enthusiastic response from critics and audiences, while Edward Albee's Three Tall Women (Tres Mujeres Altas) starring Carmen Montejo, Blanca Sanchez and Irela de Villers opened in May at the Teatro Julio Prieto, where it will continue it's successful run into 1998.
Confesiones de Mujeres de 30 (Confessions From Women in Their 30's) is an Argentine comedy that has also enjoyed a highly successful run this year. It stars Laura Luz, Zaide Silvia Gutierrez and Ana Karina Guevara. The play explores the emotions, experiences and attitudes of three thirty-something common women of our days. Confesiones is produced at the Teatro El Telon de Asfalto by Morris Gilbert and OCESA.
Other plays that opened during 1997 but have already closed are the Allen, May & Mamet's trilogy Death Defying Acts, the Mexican premiere of Jeffrey, a revival of Equus directed by Rafael Sanchez Navarro, and a new Mexican play by Mauricio Pichardo titled Bajo las Sabanas (Under the Sheets).
Long-running plays that will continue to enjoy success in 1998 are the Spanish comedy-drama Entre Mujeres (Among Women), now in its 7th year of success, the French comedy hit La Senora Presidenta starring Gonzalo Vega, now entering into its 8th year of run, West-End's horror hit The Woman in Black (La Dama de Negro), which will soon celebrate 1000 scary performances, while James Kirkwood's PS: Your Cat is Dead and Ray Cooney's Salvese Quien Pueda! (Run For Your Wife!) are both entering into their 2nd year of success.
Finally, we can't forget Liza Minnelli's triumphant return (after almost 20 years of absence) to the Mexican stage with three concerts at the Teatro Metropolitan last June. Now Liza has announced that she'll be back in Acapulco for a Feb. 7 concert to benefit AcaSida, a non-profit organization dedicated to fight AIDS.
--By Claudio Carrera