The In Series takes on the music of our Southern neighbors in a concert full of classic hits from Mexico and Cuba, many of which made a climb up the U.S. pop charts. If the tunes feel particularly authentic, it may be because Mari Paz is at the piano. She grew up surrounded by the composers whose songs are featured and she plays from memory. She particularly gets going with her fingers dancing the whole breadth of the keyboard on “Contigo en la Distancia” (With You at a Distance) and also pounds out the melodies on the blazing “Para Vigo Me Voy” (I’m going away to Vigo). She is accompanied by Iván Navas on all kinds of creative percussion. At one point he made it thunder and rain for “La Gloria Eres Tú” (Glory is You).
That last is a high-spirited conga that had the four singers decked out in sombreros, and hilarious headpieces for an energetic dance. Adriana Gonzalez, Patricia Portillo, Alex Alburqueque, and José Sacín are all operatic singers who lend their superior voices to a diverse program of Latin classics. They also blend as an ensemble, usually for fast numbers like “Frenesí” (Frenzy) and the finale “El Cumbanchero” (The Conga Player) which is a tongue-twisting, toe-tapping tune from Puerto Rico.
Director Greg Stevens (who also designed the set and the fabulous formal costumes) sets up little tableaus through out each song of love and break ups that lends humor and pathos to what could have been just a traditional concert.
Each singer gets plenty of solos as well. Gonzalez sells the ultimate break up song “Nosotros” (The Two of Us), but her soprano voice is featured better on “Noche de Ronda” (Night on the Prowl).
Portillo sings one of the most famous pieces of the night “Baía,” and she owns the stage. The two women also shine on a duet of the famous “Quizás, quizás, quizás” (Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps).
Peru produced two very powerful baritones in Alburqueque and Sacín. They almost blow the roof of the intimate space at the Mexican Cultural Institute. Alburqueque has grown into the consummate crooner on passionate love songs like “Adiós Mariquita Linda” (Farewell Beautiful Mariquita) and duets with both ladies like “Amor, Amor, Amor” and the classic “Perfidia” (Perfidy) with Portillo and “Quiérme Mucho” (Yours) with Gonzalez.
Sacín dominated the second act with tunes like “Vereda Tropical” (The Tropical Path) and “Eres Rayo de Sol” (Your are a Ray of Sun). When he sings things like that, you just have to believe him. He also duets with Gonzalez on “Un Viejo Amor” (A love from the Past).
Latino Music Fever is an entertaining evening of boleros, waltzes, salsas, and congas from some of Latin America’s most famous composers, performed by an ensemble of musicians and singers that DC is lucky to have.
Running time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission.
Latino Music Fever plays concludes its run today, Saturday, June 6, 2015 at the In Series performing at the Mexican Cultural Institute – 2829 16th St NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 204-7764, or purchase them online.