Five Reasons Why ¡Americano! is an Off-Broadway Gem
By: Iris Wiener
March 16, 2022: Tony Valdovinos tried to enlist in the Marines at the age of 18, only to find that he was not an American citizen. ¡Americano! is based on the true-life story of Valdovinos, who made the decision to enlist when he watched the Twin Towers fall on TV from his Arizona home. With many reasons from which to choose, here are five for why ¡Americano! is perfect fare and just what we need Off-Broadway:
- The refreshing musical has an invigorating opening number that audiences won’t soon forget. Composer Carrie Rodriguez begins the story with a Tejano-inspired score, immediately pulling at all of our sensibilities with “We Pave the Way,” performed by the musical’s full company, and then proceeds to spend the next 2.5 hours demanding and evoking similar engagement.
- The show asks tough questions that demand thoughtful conversation and action. If you grew up American and identify as such, with very little connection to the country where you were born, what does it then feel like to be told you’re an undocumented immigrant? Do the roots you have put down matter? For what is it worth fighting? The book (written by Jonathan Rosenberg, Fernanda Santos and director Michael Barnard) shines a spotlight on so many questions about identity and survival.
- The large ensemble is sensational, bringing their A-game from start to finish. Alongside Sergio Mendoza’s Latin orchestrations (which lend themselves to the piece very well), the cast delivers powerhouse performances with humor, intelligence and soul. Don’t miss Sean Ewing’s Tony, who is on stage for most of the show and never relents in emanating full-blown energy.
- Sergio Mejia’s choreography is one-of-a-kind and deserves a showcase in and of itself. His innovative moves, ranging from jazz to Latin styles, demonstrate a true mastery of his craft. (A marine dance number is unforgettable in many regards.) Audiences would be lucky to see the show again soon on a bigger stage. Fingers crossed!
- Barnard’s direction is precise and thoughtfully energetic at every turn. He clearly has a passion for the piece, after having worked on the show and premiering it in Arizona. He is astute in mixing various styles with the sensitive subject matter, and manages to bring together an uplifting slice of hope.
New World Stages
340 W 50th Street.
Photography: Maria Baranova