Preview: ‘JuanCabaret’ revives the spirit of Vaudeville

September 20, 2013

With his bowler hat and blacked-out tooth, Juanca Galindo is the portrait of a sad clown. He sweeps an empty stage and monologues to the audience about his one great desire — to star in a cabaret show.

“But people just ignore me,” Juanca whines.

As he says this, Juanca’s spotlight wanders across the stage, leaving him in the dark; he has to scamper to catch up with it. Then, as the music starts, Juanca begins to sing and dance, to the tune of “Mr. Cellophane.” Within seconds, the stage is packed with performers, from long-legged showgirls to muscly acrobats.

At a press preview last Tuesday afternoon at Teatro Espressivo, the cast of “JuanCabaret” gave a handful of reporters some samples of their vaudeville shtick: show-stopping songs, ensemble choreography and a cavalcade of gags and slapstick. Juanca introduced each member of the diverse cast, and then they performed three numbers from their show.

Like many such musical revues, the plot is fairly flimsy. “The theater is going to be turned into a parking lot,” said co-director Ricardo Sáenz. “So [Juanca] is going to try to save it.”

If you’ve seen the most recent “Muppets” movie, you know the drill. Yet the story is primarily an excuse to showcase the cast’s enormous talents. “JuanCabaret” promises the gamut of old-school entertainments, from kick-lines to magic tricks. At the heart of the show is Juanca, the dreamy hobo, who looks like he just stumbled out of a carney’s tent. Juanca is played by renowned comedic actor Alex Costa, who also conceived the show, collaborating with directors Humberto Canesso and Sáenz, as well as choreographer Alonso Blanco.

Teatro Espressivo is a peculiar little playhouse, tucked into a corridor in the second floor of the Momentum Pinares complex in Curridabat. Despite its shopping-mall exterior, the theater is a beautiful auditorium with comfortable seats, a generous stage, and an admirable lighting grid. But the real value of Espressivo is the company itself, whose multidisciplinary performers give “JuanCabaret” so much promise.

The theater is also conjoined with Espressivo Pan Café y Chocolate, an upscale bistro that provides sugary overtures to a night of showbiz comedy. “JuanCabaret” plays in rep with Espressivo’s main stage production, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”(playing in Spanish as El mundo feliz).

Will Juanca find his limelight? Can the cabaret resist encroaching developers? Is “JuanCabaret” as pleasurable to watch if you don’t speak fluent Spanish? We have a good feeling the answer is .

JuanCabaret” shows at Teatro Espressivo, Momentum Pinares complex, Curridabat. Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8 p.m., Saturdays 10 p.m., through Oct. 19, tickets: 7,000. Info and reservations: teatroespressivo.com).

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