By: Paulanne Simmons
December 11, 2023: Graciela Daniele is an Argentina-born dancer, choreographer and director who has worked in theater, dance and opera throughout the United States. If you are a fan, The Gardens of Anuncia, which chronicles her young life pretty faithfully, will be intensely interesting and delightful. If the name means nothing to you, the show will be delightful but not very interesting.
Written by Michael John LaChiusa and directed by Daniele herself, the musical ambles along pleasantly, beginning on the day the heroine, who has been renamed Anuncia (Priscilla Lopez ) for the sole reason of associating her with the Annunciation, is about to accept a lifetime achievement award. Instead of preparing for the occasion, Anuncia is in her garden talking to her flowers and reminiscing. Soon the scene switches to her childhood.
We now see the young Anuncia (Kalyn West) growing up under the loving attention of her Mami (Eden Espinosa), Tía (Andréa Burns), and Granmama (the always wonderful Mary Testa). Her father, who is only mentioned with bitterness, is nowhere to be found.
In fact, all the men are missing in action. Granmama is separated from her seafaring husband (Enrique Acevedo), who comes back periodically, his arms filled with gifts and his wandering heart with love. Tia, who says she tries to be a virgin, has many men in her life, but no one on a permanent basis.
The violent reign of Juan Peron and his wife Eva are alluded to, but even though Mami is imprisoned for a time, the fear and horror of those years do not play a big role in the musical. For many, the most exciting moments may be the appearance of a charming Deer (Tally Sessions) and his not so amiable brother (also Sessions).
Anuncia shows talent at an early age, but for a show about a dancer/choreographer, there is remarkably little dancing in The Gardens of Anuncia. There is, however, loads of luscious, sometimes beautiful music sung by talented vocalists.
Set designer Marc Wendland gives us just a hint of the fanciful world we are in but leaves most of the work to our imagination. And costume designer Toni-Leslie James doesn’t do much at all, except provide the Deer with a nice set of horns.
The Gardens of Anuncia is an exceedingly agreeable way to pass 95 minutes of your day. It would do better in a smaller venue where people come with smaller expectations.
The Gardens of Anuncia ***1/2
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre/Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th Street, NYC
Through December 31, 2023
Photography: Julieta Cervantes