Arrabal - Toronto - Theatre Review

By: Alison Silveira

Earlier this month, Arrabal had its world premiere at the Panasonic Theatre. Mystery and romance follow Arrabal, the coming of age heroine, in Buenos Aires' underground tango clubs. On a quest to find the truth about what happened to her father many years ago during Argentina's political upheaval in the 1970s, Arrabal learns the lurid details of her father's shocking murder. Through her journey, she meets seedy characters and loses her innocence while trying to fit in.

The story of Arrabal is told entirely through dance and the enthralling music of Gustavo Santaolalla and his band, Bajofondo. The use of striking images of Argentina's political violence is very powerful. A visually arresting image of some of the 30, 000 dissidents who were murdered or missing during the military regime is quite a sobering sight. Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys and Memphis) and Julio Zurita, the show features talented performers in dynamic and complex routines. Explosive combative sequences are brilliantly choreographed and danced with high energy. Each one of the dancers oozes sensuality as they cavort through the stage dancing the intense and fervent tango. Arrabal's father, Rodolfo (Julio Zurita), visits her in a dream and they dance a beautiful and ethereal number together.

Encompassing sweetness and naiveté, Micaela Spina is enrapturing as the young ingénue. Soledad Buss as the temptress, Nicole, is unstoppable as she commands the stage with her strength and agility. Juan Cupini as Arrabal's lover is the quintessential handsome hero who dances with unrivaled passion.

While Arrabal is truly entertaining, certain facets of the show left me puzzled and the storyline did not have complete fluidity. Prior to the performance, the expert dancers teach a number of audience members the basics of tango and they even get to show off their new skills during the performance. Albeit a little rough around the edges, Arrabal is riveting, romantic and is definitely worth seeing.

Starring Micaela Spina, Julio Zurita, Soledad Buss, and Juan Cupini
Directed by Sergio Trujillo
Book by John Weidman
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo and Julio Zurita
Music by Bajofondo and Gustavo Santaolalla
Arrabal plays at the Panasonic Theatre until May 11, 2014.
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann.