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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "American Mariachi"

With all that is going on right now, the entertainment industry seems to be in flux. With more and more states instituting a “Shelter in Place” status for their cities, counties, and (in some cases) states, theater chains are closing their doors to keep their employees safe and encourage their patrons to do the same. This seems especially true for the live theater industry and may in some cases be hit the hardest. However, the Dallas Theater Center and the Wyly Theatre’s production of “American Mariachi” may have found a way to help everyone involved. But before we get there…

“American Mariachi” takes place in the 1970s as Lucha (Tiffany Solano DeSena) spends her days taking care of her ailing mother, Amalia (Gigi Cervantes) and her nights trying to get her nursing degree while her father, Frederico (Ricardo Gutierrez) tries to make ends meet as a mariachi playing anywhere and everywhere that would have him. When Lucha and her cousin, Boli (Lucy Godinez), discover a record that makes her otherwise lethargic mother responsive, they have the idea to make their own mariachi band in the hopes that it will help her heal. Unfortunately, female mariachi is not something that is accepted in her culture, but this does not stop her and Boli from recruiting three other young women from different walks and cultures to be a part of their life-changing group.

Before its run was canceled the day before what was scheduled to be opening night, a select number of family and friends were invited to be there for the final dress rehearsal of this production, and it was even filmed with multiple cameras. In doing so, the Dallas Theater Center is giving the public a “Pay-What-You-Can” option to get a temporary private video link which includes introductions by a few different people that were involved in the productions behind the scenes including playwright Jose Cruz Gonzales himself in order for the family to have a night at the theater wherever they may be. I was actually able to watch it on my couch, and I absolutely loved it from beginning to end.

Knowing things like DeSena and Christopher Llewyn Ramirez learned violin and guitar respectively for this production intrigued me, and adding to that the fact that local band Mariachi Imperial De Dallas, TX were by technical definition the house band had me anticipating this that much more. The music in “American Mariachi” is genuine and beautiful all the way through, coupled with a story that has a ton of heart and humanity that runs the entire emotional gambit. The rag-tag group of young women who learn how to be a team while dealing with their own issues is rock solid including Isabel (Molly Hernandez), who has an overbearing husband that wants her to simply know her domestic place; Gabby (Satya Chavez), who despite her talent to play bass may or may not be tone deaf (and does not know Spanish well); and Soyla (Gloria Vivica Benavides), the local hairdresser that just wants to make music no matter the cost. The production value is absolutely on par with what is normally expected by the Dallas Theater Center and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and that is top-notch depicting a neighborhood street scene for the mariachi band to play from windows, balconies, and more while the story unfolds down center stage.

There is a bit of a strange turn late in the second act that turns this production into a musical, but there is a payoff that pulls it all together before the lights come up. Being able to expand this production’s influence via the Internet I hope gives a much wide audience the opportunity to give those who may not have a strong arts presence in their area a night at the theater. I do hope that the reports that this company will take “American Mariachi” will make its way to Chicago for a run still takes place when all is well with our nation, but in case it does not, support the arts by buying a virtual ticket and enjoy this production any way you can!

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