You may never know what to expect on April Fool’s Day, but a one-night-only performance by a Venezuelan-American artist at the Hispanic GALA Theater was certainly one of them.
Part moving concert, part dynamic dance experience, part solo rock opera about the American immigration experience, Michel Angelo“English with an Accent” was certainly something a sold-out DC audience fully embraced.
Co-production with Washington Performing Arts, it was the rare GALA production presented in English, but as the title will remind you, with an accent.
Anggelo, 49, is a dynamic, petite performer with a disarming style and blonde hair who can keep up with the supercharged and energetic 10-member dance troupe who are busy every minute, but can keep the show going with their narrative songs, sometimes. presented in a surprising falsetto voice.
The story is common – a personal story of the struggle to immigrate to this country, the loneliness, the disregard for others, the maddening legal and monetary demands, the joy of finally making it through all the hoops.
It was, in fact, the basis of another narrative dance piece on the same stage last fall, Edwin Aparicio’s autobiographical “Salvador,” which was part of GALA’s Fuego Flamenco Festival.
But that one was pure dance – and indeed, this one could have been presented that way, given the imaginative and breathtaking choreography by Avihal Haham, who was also a director.
But Angelo’s melodious score, which he created and co-wrote with the musical director and arranger Jaime Lozano, makes it all the more convincing. The songs aren’t quite the stuff of classic opera or standard Broadway, but more theatrical rock that someone loves david bowie could have conceived.
It’s no surprise that “English with an Accent” started life as a concept album – the third such release from Angelo.
He compares the journey of immigrants to the chrysalis of a butterfly.
“They say I’m just a worm, but I know I’m a caterpillar”, he declares very early.
He sings it but it is also played. We see him for the first time moving away like a worm on the large open stage of the GALA, naked from one wall to the other to make room for the play. When he states that he looks more like a caterpillar, the 10 diverse young dancers quickly line up behind him like segments on this insect to effectively complete the picture.
The quick and succinct “English with an Accent” has a number of memorable tableaus, from a ribbon engulfing and supporting it which is perhaps analogous to paperwork, to a stretched piece of white cloth from which its head pops up. As he repeatedly throws handfuls of cash in the air, it’s clear that the expense of paying fees and attorneys adds up (and how quickly they clear up those bills each time they’re scattered!) .
The only thing that doesn’t work as well is a segment with clown noses meant to be a commentary on the Trump administration. The satirical intent seems a bit dated since that period fortunately seems behind us.
The dancers’ remarkable agility and athleticism, which at times resembles a regimented burst of energy like in a cheerleading competition, is relentless throughout and essential to the work’s success.
But none of this would happen without Anggelo, born Miguel Angelo Pinto Martiníez in Valencia, Venezuela and involved in musical theater since he was a young man, landing the title role in a traveling “Pinocchio” company in his native company. After playing in several theater companies in Caracas, he went to Germany, where his grandfather was born, to study singing in Cologne. Then he travels Latin America for years in the cast of “Fama El Musical”.
In “English With an Accent”, he sings “I watched the army kill my people”, and repeats his desire to come to the United States. Once here on a tourist visa he was confronted “Where are you from?” and “Flip”, but finally his character achieves his dream – as the artist did in real life just recently.
Based now in Brooklyn, Anggelo’s very limited “English with an Accent” tour has been booked to play one time in the nation’s capital. It’s also slated for Lincoln Center in New York in November.
Once word of the work is heard, it will likely fly away, like the monarch it strives to become.
Operating time: About an hour, without intermission.
“English with an Accent” was performed on April 1 at the GALA Hispanic Theater, in collaboration with Washington Performing Arts. More information about the GALA season can be found in line.