Life & Style
Silly, Farcical Fun
You will have a great time at Kiss My Aztec! particularly if you go in expecting the irreverence and the farce. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Krystina Alabado and Matt Saldivar in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Kiss My Aztec! is set in the 16th century where a group of Aztecs are plotting to overthrow the local Spanish governor. In the process, the show comments on Spanish invaders, the Inquisition, political infighting, and the role of women. The show pokes fun at some of the myths most of us have grown up with about the Age of Exploration and the so-called “discovery” of the new world. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Krystina Alabado and Joel Perez in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Silly, farcical, and fun are adjectives I’d use about the new musical now at Hartford Stage through Sunday, June 26.
Kiss My Aztec! is billed as “loosely based on Latin American history—very loosely!” That’s to be expected when comedian and performer John Leguizamo has written the book for the show. He’s known for his plays, some of which were solo shows, including Spic-o-Rama, Latin History for Morons, and Klass Klown.
This is set in the 16th century where a group of Aztecs are plotting to overthrow the local Spanish governor. In the process, the show comments on Spanish invaders, the Inquisition, political infighting, and the role of women.
The show pokes fun at some of the myths most of us have grown up with about the Age of Exploration and the so-called “discovery” of the new world.
Leguizamo, with composer Benjamin Velez and lyricist David Kamp, sets the mood in the first number, “White People on Boats,” which comically points out that bad things happen when White people in boats show up.
From there we alternate between the Aztecs with their leader El Jaguar Negro, his daughter Colombina, and the clown, Pepe, and the governor’s palace where the governor’s son is plotting to overthrow him and his daughter, Pilar, is refusing to marry a member of the royal family.
El Jaguar is having similar problems because Colombina wants to fight the Spanish while her father wants her to stay with the other women and do the laundry.
The details of the plot are fun but unimportant in many ways. Let’s just say that both the Aztecs and the women triumph.
The multi-talented cast members play many roles. At times they are so completely transformed that you will not realize that you have already seen the actor but as another character. Each shows fine comic timing.
Two, Krystina Alabado and Joel Perez, play only one role each. Alabado is Colombina, the Aztec leader’s warrior daughter and Perez is Pepe, the clownish sidekick who loves her. In fact, you might think of them as Don Quixote and Sancho.
Both are excellent. Alabado projects the fierce determination of Colombina to escape the female stereotype roles and to save her people. Pepe is modeled on many of the Shakespearean clowns, the “wise fool” who knows more than anyone gives him credit for. It is these two that penetrate the governor’s house and set up the victory.
Among the other performers who stood out for their fine work was Eddie Cooper as El Jaguar and, in the Spanish scenes, as Reymundo, a very different type of priest. Desireé Rodriguez plays the reluctant Spanish bride with comic finesse.
One of the fun things about the show is that Leguizamo has given an Elizabethan twist to modern, colloquial English. Lots of “willsts” and “knowths” are strewn about.
The music by Velez and Kamp owes a debt of gratitude to Lin-Manuel Hernandez and Hamilton. Much of the score has that rhythmic, hip-hop/rap flavor. But they even make a reference to Gilbert and Sullivan with a take on “I’m the Model of a Modern Major General.”
Another highlight of the show are the costumes by Clint Ramos, who also did the fine scenic design. Ramos uses patterns reminiscent of Aztec and Latin American cultures but applies them to spandex. His exaggerated costumes, particularly for the Spanish, add to the comedy without being offensive.
As befits a show with ambitions to move perhaps to Broadway, all the production values are good. At the beginning the sound was loud, but either it moderated or I adjusted so it didn’t both me.
The choreography by Mayte Natalio is energetic and effective, as is the brisk-paced direction by Tony Taccone.
You will have a great time at Kiss My Aztec! particularly if you go in expecting the irreverence and the farce.
For tickets, visit HartfordStage.org.
Karen Isaacs is the Columnists for Zip06. Email Karen at .