Writing duo Jesse Sanchez (book, music, and lyrics) and Jeff Chambers (additional music and orchestrations) brought down the house and lifted our spirits at The Green Room 42 on Saturday evening (following developmental readings in California and a workshop in Oregon) with their latest collaboration Sueños: Our American Musical. Part of the GR42 New Works Series, the sold-out one-night-only performance was presented in the format of a concert reading, with segments of dialogue interspersed between the songs, and explanatory remarks made by Sanchez before and after the show and between the two acts, to help the audience follow along with the storyline and to remind everyone of the need to create meaningful opportunities in theater for talented Latin-American artists. Mission accomplished.
The timely new Latinx musical (for which Linnea Valdivia served as dramaturg and story consultant) follows the contemporary journey, interrelationships, and dynamics of three generations of a Mexican-American family as they confront challenges, make sacrifices, break cycles, and celebrate community in their pursuit of the American Dream. Sometimes hot, sometimes humorous, always heartfelt and human, the engaging narrative – advanced by the vibrant characters and songs – was delivered by a top-notch cast of thirteen, led by the golden voice and compelling portrayal of Jason Hurtado as Ali Viramontes, who navigates a path of paternal expectations, maternal support, and sexual awakening, while coming of age, questioning his church, facing unexpected responsibility, and making momentous decisions that will impact his promising career in music and affect the future of his loved ones.
In keeping with the show’s themes of cultural traditions, aspirations, and assimilation, the music and lyrics reflected a broad range of styles, from rousing Broadway show tunes featuring rich full-cast harmonies (“Here We Are”) to youthful rock anthems (“They Will See”) and romantic ballads (“Big Brown Eyes”), from soulful R&B stylings (“Walk In My Shoes” and “Daddy’s Girl”) to lively Latin rhythms with mariachi and salsa beats (“Hermosa” and the blockbuster “Acapulco”), all numbering among the highlights of the expressive and tuneful score. Each captured the essence of the characters, the events that unfolded, and the appropriate moods, in consistently powerful vocals (by Hurtado, featured performers Doreen Montalvo, Eliseo Roman, Sandra Marante, Marina Pires, Aly Beltran, Anika Buchanan, Dave Abrams, and Ernie Pruneda, and ensemble members Jessica Furnstahl, Javier Talor Fox, Alexandra Imbrosci-Viera, and Kariana Sanchez), accompanied by a terrific five-piece band (led by music director Cynthia Meng).
The Green Room 42’s premiere concert reading of Sueños: Our American Musical had all the makings and promise of an entertaining and relevant full-stage musical. Let’s hope these sueños become a reality for the creators and future audiences of the show.
Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, without intermission.
Sueños: Our American Musical played Saturday, October 26, 2019, at The Green Room 42 – 570 10th Avenue, Yotel, 4th floor, NYC.