Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Heading up the cast is the star of the Evita production, Ana Isabelle, hence the title Ana Isabelle and Friends in Concert. Co-starring is Justin Gregory Lopez, who appeared as Che, and tango dancers Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia (who shines with a mother to be glow).
Rhodes opens the show with all performers taking the stage and warning audiences to "Stand Back, Sarasota." After that are solo numbers and a lengthy Broadway medley, which ends what would be the first act: full renditions of "Don't Rain on My Parade" by Ms. Isabelle and "Being Alive" by Mr. Lopez; "Let It Go" by her; "One Song Glory" by him. Things then gain momentum as a medley with shorter versions of "It Won't Be Long Now" and "Waving Through a Window," then "Somewhere" lead us into other famous Broadway duets "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "Suddenly Seymour" before building to an exciting finish with "Memory," "Why, God, Why?," "Defying Gravity," "All I Ask of You," and a quick chorus and a half of "You Can't Stop the Beat." While all these songs are audience pleasers, there are a few quirky transitions in Sinai Tabak's arrangement.
The second half of the show, which is presented without intermission, opens with a dance solo for Junior and Guadalupe and a reveal of their baby's sex and name, after which Ms. Isabelle and Mr. Lopez sing a slightly altered version of David Foster's "The Prayer" for the baby. From where I was sitting, I can not be sure if Mr. Cervila and Ms. Garcia join in the vocals throughout the evening or not.
The highlight of this half is a tribute to Latina superstar singers of the past, including Gloria Estefan, Selena, Shakira, and Celia Cruz. Although these names and songs may not be well known to the average Asolo audience member, this is something important to Ms. Isabelle and the audience picks up on it. As a sort of encore, a medley from Andrew Lloyd Webber's score for Evita reminds us what brought all four artists to Asolo Rep in the first place.
Musical matters are under the supervision of Sinai Tabak, but it is James Rushin who is at keyboards, leading Nick Bruno on percussion, Jonathan Godfrey on guitar, and Mauricio Rodriguez on bass.
Projections by Paul Tate Depoo III give this show that Asolo Rep sparkle. Costumes by David M. Covach and April Andrew Carswell are flashy and add a great deal of pizzazz.
Nothing has been announced regarding plans for 2021-2022, including whether performances will be indoors or outdoors.
Ana Isabelle and Friends in Concert runs through April 25, 2021, at Asolo Repertory Theatre, Terrace Stage, FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For information and tickets, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order):