and leading them through the tango with powerful dignity; we know, too, the pleasure of camaraderie. The women among us think how easily such men are controlled, they are only boys. As the males preen for each other - with dance steps, or their ability with cue sticks, or with general machoism - the women slither for each other in high heals, net stockings and garter belts. It is almost a competition between masculinity and femininity. The tangueros, these dancers, are beautiful young people in the bloom of passion. It is hopelessly and wonderfully melodramatic, and infectiouly so. We feel the tango surge, we are in their sensual world, in Buenos Aires, in this small cafetin and it is a half a century ago. The show is not slavish to research. For the most part the dancing is for partner, for lovers, but sometimes it is just the men who dance, or the women, or in one ingenious sequence, there are no partners at all and they dance alone (each costume half man, half women). The music is not always traditional either. While the first act uses classical tango, in the second act the music is contemporary. Moreover, it is sometimes arranged for duet or trio, which is never done in traditional tango. The effect can be richly evocative, as in EL DIA QUE ME QUERAS ( The Day You Say You Love Me) sung by the mysteriously sultry Yeni Patino and the matinee idol Daniel Bouchet. Throughout the show, the rythms are not always of formal tango and sometimes the pervasive musical spirit is simply continental, as in the thrilling finale, the BALLAD OF A MADMAN (Piazzolla's "Balada Para Un Loco"). By this point we have come to realize that tango is not merely a music, or a rhythm, or a dance, but a state of mind. Is such a statement disingenuous? Not in Spanish.
TANGO PASION restores what Broadway musicals have lost in recent years - The ecstatic pulse of dancing. It moves with a painterly look, an exotic atmosphere, and the irresistible and insinuting rhythms of tango music. This show is the choreographic response to the scenery-laden, all singing musiclas of the 1980s, LES MISERABLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and the rest. Those are wonderful shows but they deal with the vocal aspects of musical theatre. Dance has all but disappeared on Broadway even thought, ever since OKLAHOMA! 50 years ago, the best musicals have been those that weave song and dance into a single theater fabric. TANGO PASION is a unique musical, with almost continuous music and dance, but no dialogue. TANGO PASION takes place in a dance club, a cafetin in Buenos Aires. Everything in life is expressed through tango. There is no story, only an atmosphere and memory and this is what makes TANGO PASION exotic. Like the gorgeous pictures made by the show itself, the characters are like figures in a painting, more to be watched than heard, and we get to know them by observing them through the artist's eyes.
The look of the production is painterly, with rich lighting and costume schemes made from browns, oranges and rose. The dancers do not seem like chorus dancers but, rather, real people who bring to the tango an individual intensity and focus that is like the mood of a mystical and atmospheric Spanish novel.
One is drawn into this exotic world, a world so real it can almost be touched. We can almost feel the brush of warm air blown by an overhead fan, and we can surely smell the Tobacco. We smile with secret tourist eyes, watching macho men in their tight suits, their fedoras and slickened black hair, with newspapers rolled up and shoved into their side jacket pockets. We gape at the beautiful women. The men among us think of the strength in taking such women
(is a prize winning drama critic and author of BROADWAY MUSICLAS and MORE BROADWAY MUSICALS, both published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)