Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

carragher-forever-tango aug13Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff. (Photo by Walter McBride)NEW YORK – This is the third Broadway engagement of "Forever Tango," and though I am not exactly a tango aficionado, I found this show’s array of stand-out dancing, enchantingly executed songs and magnificent orchestral work by 11 on-stage musicians to be a joyous way to spend a hot Gotham summer evening. It is at the air-cooled Walter Kerr Theater, on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

"Forever Tango" was created by dance-devising genius Luis Bravo, who also directed the enterprise and who on its first time out won a 1997 choreography Tony for his musical staging, one which still holds up, though some of the dances in the production have been signaturized by this new cast.

"Forever Tango" begins a little like a "Viva Las Vegas" attraction, with Mr. Bravo’s introducing us to the birth of the tango, long ago in Argentine night clubs. Soon this storyline is abandoned, though, and quickly the inspiring bravura dancers take over in duos and ensembles, step by step, move by move, showing us how the tango and its variations became a global movement wonder. The show moves quickly in a variety of styles: serious, amazingly acrobatic and comic.

The singer I saw was the fine Puerto Rican baritone Gilberto Santa Rosa, but now Luis Enrique, the Nicaraguan Grammy Award-winning singer, has taken over for him through Aug. 18.

The show features "Dancing with the Stars" alums Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who dance "Comme il Faut" and "Romance entre el Dolov y Mi Alma," both choreographed expertly by stellar company members Juan Paulo Horvath and Victoria Galoto – who also are star performers.

Act Two also features a six-person ensemble performing in the legendary tango classic "La Cumparsita."

"Forever Tango," which runs until Sept. 15, shines like a whirling planet, stirring the audience into an authentic cheering response you rarely see or hear on Broadway. Be sure not to leave after the musical’s extended curtain call because shrewd showman Mr. Bravo has added an extra encore.

‘The Weir’

From dance we travel back to the world of words at the Irish Repertory Theatre, where director Ciaran O’Reilly has staged an excellent revival of Irishman Conor McPherson’s play "The Weir," which launched Mr. McPherson in 1997, at age 26, as a new playwright of note.

"The Weir" setting is a pub, on a stormy night in a country town on the west coast of Ireland; set designer Charlie Corcoran has meticulously designed a bar on the Rep’s miniscule stage.

 Besides the pub’s owner Brendan (Billy Carter), there is Jack (Dan Butler), a local car mechanic and garage owner. You will probably recognize Mr. Butler’s face because he played Bulldog Briscoe on countless episodes of TV’s "Frasier." Jack’s assistant Jim (John Keating) arrives, and a successful local businessman, Finbar Mack (Sean Gormley), brings into the fold a newcomer, a beautiful woman, Valerie (Tessa Klein), who has recently rented one of the town’s historic houses.

The bar is full of nostalgic gab of days gone by. But soon the fellas’ liquor kicks in and the conversation drifts into talk of ghost stories and the next world: Irish folklore fairies, supposed ghosts and mysterious happenings.

After each man except Brendan speaks, Valerie, who has been sipping white wine, launches into her own story about why she had to leave Dublin. Her story, just like the fellas’, has a ghost- like flair and stirs the men in a way they neither bargained for nor expected from this lovely woman. In a way, Valerie, by sharing her intimate story, has become one with the world of this small town.

 Finbar explains the play’s symbolic title by saying that The Weir is the name of a hydroelectric dam on a nearby waterway that lets water flow around the area; it’s much the way Mr. McPherson’s inventive folktales nightly fill the air in Brendan’s pub.

"The Weir" is at the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, off Sixth Avenue, through Sept. 8.

Critic Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers the arts and entertainment.