The In Series “Made in America” season launches in Latin and South America with a special cabaret of the works Latina songwriters as a part of the DC Women’s Voices Festival, Latina Supremes. The cabaret features the incomparable Mari Paz on piano (who also stole the show when she sang “Segundo Otono.”
Singer Patricia Portillo has an operatic soprano, but can also pull off the these popular songs. Diana Sáez has a sultry voice and skill with the guitar. Gary Sosias plays percussion in a corner and serves the drinks on a set by Greg Stevens that invokes a sunny tropical courtyard cafe, aided by the lights by Stefan Johnson. In Series Artistic Director Carla Hübner says that these classic popular songs should be considered simply classics – to join the canon of timeless song continually performed.
Director and writer Elizabeth Pringle makes the most of the cafe atmosphere, writing banter between singers to introduce each songwriter. Some of the banter works better than others and ultimately its Portillo and Sáez that make this work with their obvious love for these songs.
The 14 composers and 20 songs span 6 countries and the style differences between Mexican, Cuban or Argentinian songs showcase the diversity of Latin music. There are some big, well-known hits like “What a Difference a Day Made,” “Bésame Mucho,” “Gracias a la vida” and many more lesser known classics. If there is a unifying theme, it is love – for country, for each other, and for music.
Portillo thrives on the dramatic love songs like “Que Sabes Tu?” (What do you know?) and “En Nosotros” (Inside Us). My favorite from her was “Llora” (Cry) by Marta Valdes. It’s a political anthem and beautiful.
Sáez accompanied herself on guitar for “Volver a los diecisiete” (Returning to seventeen) and the gorgeous “Como la Cigarra” (Like the Grasshopper). She also sang what she says is her favorite, “Olas y Arenas” (The waves and the sand). A romantic song by Puerto Rican songwriter Sylvia Rexach.
They also duetted on the vocally complicated “La flor de la canela” (Cinnamon Flower) and “Mucho Corazon” (Too Much Heart) and had the audience singing and dancing along and at one point jumping up to dance salsa.
The magic of this show is its heart – from the passion of the songwriters to the joy of the performers. Latina Supremes is a beautiful, intimate show, the perfect way to launch a season of American music.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission.
Latina Supremes plays for one more performance today, September 20th at 7 pm at the In Series performing at Source —1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets call (202) 204-7763, or purchase them online.