Theatre Review by Matthew Murray - July 14, 2013
Forever Tango Created and directed by Luis Bravo. Choregraphy by the dancers. Costume design by Argemire Affonso. Sound design by Rolando Obregón. Makeup design by Jean Luc Don Vito. Orchestra director Víctor Lavallén. Arrangements & orchestrations by Lisandro Androver. Cast: Gilberto Santo Rosa, and Karina Smirnoff & Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Victoria Galoto & Juan Paulo Horvath, Marcela Duran & Gaspar Godoy, "Zumo" Leguizamón & Belén Bartolmé, Florencia Blanco & Hernán Lazart, Natalia Turelli & Ariel Manzanares, Diego Ortega & Aldana Silveyra, Sebastián Ripoll & Mariana Bojanich, Soledad Buss & César Peral, Víctor Lavallén, Carlos Niesi, Jorge Trivisonno, Eduardo Miceli, Leonardo Ferreyra, José Luis Marina, Washington Williman, Luis Bravo, Héctor Pineda, Maurizio Najt, Jorge Vernieri.
Luis Bravo, who created and directed the show, seems as determined to test that theory as he does investigate the history of the Argentinian form after which the show is named. This is the third time this terpsichorean backgrounder has slunk onto Broadway (the last was nine years ago, the first seven years before that), and though the dancers, the choreography (in most cases laid out by the performers themselves), and the only onstage singer may be different, Forever Tango itself has not changed that much.
It remains a sweeping, swirling look at the tango, charting it from its earliest (and angriest) days in South American brothels to its subsequent around-the-world tour that captivated the notice of those in many cultures. What emerges from this study, at least as presented here, is a dance that's more sensual than overtly sexual, thriving on the subtleties of promise and expectation rather than consummation. That provides the sense of dramatic thrust necessary to make this (slightly) more than just a straight-out showcase, and the kind of thing that families can attend largely without fear. (There's an almost scandalous lack of skin onstage.)
Such qualities are, however, easy to avoid if you choose to do so and prefer to enjoy each "chapter" of the proceedings in isolation. There's something for every taste, as well, from pure orchestral interludes (the musical director is Víctor Lavallén, the cellist is Bravo himself, and the piano player Jorge Vernieri is his own kind of show-stopping marvel) to comic sequences (courtesy of Natalia Turelli and Ariel Manzanares, first in "La Tablada" and later "Felicia") to the songs (Gilberto Santa Rosa brings to full bear his lush baritone on "Garúa," "Si Te Dijeron," and "El Día Que Me Quieras) to tantalizing examples of group dancing (the famous "La Cumparsita," done with six people).
Star watchers have something to focus on as well. Dancing With the Stars headliners Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who last paired up on Broadway four years ago in the considerably more populist extravaganza Burn the Floor, are on hand to contribute some of the smoldering struts and taut interactions that helped to endear them to American reality TV audiences. I'm admittedly not sure the self-consciously piercing glares I saw on their faces the entire time blended in with the violent indifference exhibited by most everyone else. But the pair had no trouble slicing through "Comme I'll Faut," the haunting "Romance entre el Dolor y mi Alma," and the smidgen of finale-centered ensemble work to which they've been assigned.
Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy, it's worth noting, did not choreograph their own numbers. That was done by Victoria Galoto and Juan Paulo Horvath, who also invoke and close the evening with arresting glimpses of their "Romance del Bandoneón y la Noche." Their appearances best exemplify the perilously thin boundaries between darkness and light, and rage and romance, that have always been at the heart, soul, and sole of the tango. If they lack Smirnoff and Chmerkovskiy's marquee gravitas, Galoto and Horvath, more than anyone else onstage, are responsible for imbuing Forever Tango with the fiery punch it needs to transcend dance and succeed as theatre worth braving New York in July for.