Fasten your seat belts! Last Sunday’s matinee concluded the three-week premiere engagement of the new musical “4 Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria.” The adorable musical comedy revue was such a smash hit sellout at 42 street’s John Houseman Studio Theater, the producers are now arranging for a larger New York theater and an extended run. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, and don’t miss it when it re-opens!
As the title promises, the lightweight plot features our four Josés (Henry Gainza, Allen Hidalgo, Ricardo Puente, Caesar Samayoa) and a Maria delightfully played by Ana Maria Andricain. A more likeable and talented group of young performers would be hard to find! The story revolves around the group’s efforts to put together a show featuring the very best of Hispanic music from traditional to current pop. That list includes such popular hits as “Guantanemera,” “Perfidia,” “Babalu,” “La Bamba,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “You Belong to My Heart,” “Amor,” “Frenesi,” and “Besame Mucho.” Fans of Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias will not be disappointed, and as for Ricky Martin— well, don’t miss Mr. Hidalgo’s high-energy takeoffs of “La Vida Loca” and “One, Two, Three, Maria!”
Thanks to choreographer, Maria Torres, there is delightful dancing throughout, with everything from Mambo and Conga to Salsa and Cha Cha. Each member of the cast has comic flair and great vocal talent. These gifts are used to great advantage under the skillful direction of Donna Trinkoff, producing director of the AMAS Musical Theater that mounted the production. Conceived by Dolores Prida (who also wrote the book) and David Coffman (producer of the smash international tour of “Blackbirds of Broadway”), the show is a musically polished gem, thanks to the brilliant musical supervision of Oscar Hernandez, and the musical direction of Steve Sandberg. The joyous onstage band included Sandberg, on piano, and the Latin percussion talents of Vince Cherico and Jerome Goldschmitt. In this environment, the gifted cast supplies both wonderful solos and memorable harmonies.
Mary Houston provided a simple but effective nightclub set that is nicely accented by the work of lighting designer, Aaron Spivey. And the costumes of Tania Bass bring a colorful Latin look to the show. My favorites included the leading lady’s sleek, delicately beaded, royal purple pantsuit, and her stunning, smoky-silver lame evening gown with ruby bedecked plunging neckline. As for the guys, wait ’til you see the tropical white suits in the grand finale!
The show is most moving, and at its best, when the characters reminisce about the way in which many of their poor ancestors had to “leave a paradise in which they could not afford to stay,” before coming to America. In this powerful segment they sing a series of touching ballads representative of homelands in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It is a highlight of the production with knockout solos from each of the gentlemen. Miss Andricain continues the excellence with a beautiful “I Could Fall in Love with You.” The ensemble’s “I Like it Like That” finale brought a screaming standing ovation from the appreciative audience.