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Queens Chronicle

Brilliant music and fancy footwork to match

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 10:30 am

The show running at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside through June 23 is called “Tango + Tango,” a celebration of both the traditional and new styles of the dance, but the main attraction here is Raul Jaurena, the production’s musical director who, not incidentally, is one of the world’s foremost players of an instrument known as the bandoneon.

A type of concertina, it is played similarly to an accordion, and, in the right hands, it can elicit a wide range of emotions.

Such is the case when Jaurena, a native of Uruguay who won a Latin Grammy Award in 2007, effortlessly plays throughout the show’s 90 intermissionless minutes.

He is joined by three other expert musicians: Emiliano Messiez on piano, Pablo Lanouguere on doublebass and Avigail Malachi-Baev on clarinet, each of whom is given time to shine, most memorably in a brilliantly arranged piece called “Libertango.”

While the musical accompaniment is outstanding from beginning to end, there is much more to this show. Two couples — Yaisuri Salamanca & John Hernan Raigosa and Andres Bravo & Sarita Apel — provide the fancy footwork, choreographed by themselves, and it does get quite complex, indeed, as is the trademark of the tango, which combines elements of waltz, polka, mazurka and other dance styles.

The tango, originating in Argentina, dates as far back as the 1880’s, with many variations in existence today. It can still prove surprising and most entertaining.

And then there are the singers, Marga Mitchell and Ernesto Camino, whose emotionally charged vocals provided several of the evening’s highlights. A personal favorite was their only duet, “Adoracion,” which came near the end of the program and featured a spot-on rapid-fire, tongue-twisting delivery.

The theater’s amiable guiding force, Artistic/Executive Director Angel Gil Orrios, welcomed the audience in both English and Spanish, a tradition at the Thalia, the only bilingual Hispanic theater in the borough. The rest of the program was delivered completely in Spanish, but even those who do not understand the language will be able to feel the emotion behind each song (or dance).

The show is slickly produced, with a careful blending of instrumental numbers, dance and vocals, each element handled in the professional manner that visitors to the theater have come to expect. While this production is not as lavish as some prior attractions at the theater (which featured much larger ensembles), it is a pleasant diversion from start to finish.

The show is a study in technical precision. From the opening, which reveals each musician, one by one, in a separate spotlight until all are visible, to the finale that brings the entire company together for the one and only time, the lighting (designed by Gil Orrios) is evocative.

Adding immeasurably to the proceedings are rear projections (designed by Fabricio Saquicela)that help set the mood of each selection. And the costumes (designed by Soledad Lopez), while not as spectacular as some in earlier productions, are colorful and eye-catching.

Kudos to sound engineer Ivan Salgado for the perfect blending of voices and instruments, with neither overpowering the other.

Gil Orrios is also to be commended as the show’s director, providing an hour and a half of pure, uninterrupted entertainment.

But the evening belongs to Jaurena, whose skill on the bandoneon is matched by his brilliant musical arrangements.

This is the kind of show that should please those already familiar with this art form as well as serve as a fine introduction for a whole new generation of fans.

‘Tango + Tango’
When: Each Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; each Sun., 4 p.m., through June 23
Where: Thalia Spanish Theatre, 41-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside
Tickets: $45; $42 students, seniors.
(718) 729-3880,

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