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Tiempo Libre

Miami ArtZine

Viva Miami

Miami ArtZine

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

by Leslie Pariseau

“Miami Libre is more than just a theatrical production—the stage, the sets, the costumes, the excellent lighting—it’s an experience,” says Scott Shiller, vice president of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Set in present-day Cuba and Miami, this original dance-musical promises, literally, to sweep the audience off its feet in a whirlwind of extravagant sets, vibrant costumes and the universal passion of music. This is a story for Miami.

“There are two important pieces to this show,” explains Shiller, who is also Miami Libre’s producer. “First, is the great extravaganza on stage.”

The musical follows the story of Pepito, a musician from Cuba, discontent with the inability to exercise his creativity freely. Played by Telemundo’s telenovela star JenCarlos Canela, Pepito flees to the United States to seek out his passion for music and the object of his affection, played by Cuban-born model and actress Everlayn Borges.

With over 200 costumes designed in part by Perry Ellis, and brilliant sets designed by Cuban artist Pablo Cano, Miami Libre is an ambitious endeavor that will transform the Knight Concert Hall into Club Miami Libre. The stage will extend out over the audience, which will double as the crowd for the performance, but also for the fictional Club Miami Libre. Throughout each performance, the audience will participate in the atmosphere of a club cabaret where they will be served drinks and are encouraged to share in the story many Miamians already know so well.

“The second piece of this show are the characters,” continues Shiller.

Miami Libre’s collaborative director and writer team interviewed Miamians, gathering their stories to capture the common thread of Cuban immigration and create characters that resonate as genuine and memorable personalities. Pepito’s story is partially biographical.

Upon his arrival in Miami, Pepito pursues his lover and also his fervor for music, mirroring the story of many Cuban artists seeking asylum in the United States—especially members of the seven-piece timba band, Tiempo Libre. This Miami-based ensemble is a Grammy-nominated sensation intent on sharing their musical heritage with as many audiences as possible. The aptly named group—Tiempo Libre means free time—met in much the same way that the show’s lead eventually meets his own group of musicians, both embracing their roots with a totally new Cuban sound. Intermittent flashback scenes will allow the audience to reminisce over pre-embargo Havana at the height of Tropicalia and recall those elements that tie Cuban heritage so strongly to its musical history.

Miami Libre is a natural story for Miami. It’s also a story that rings true with almost any nationality, capturing the longing for one’s native land and the melting of cultures in a foreign place. The tale is told in English and Spanish, but one need not know either language to understand the message of dance and music. With a cast of 19 actors—“the audience becomes the 20th member,” says Shiller.

“We’re taking a risk with this show, but it’s important for us,” he says. “And if it’s emotional we’ve done our job. I think the primary emotion will be excitement. We’ve had such great success this season with Celia, and every night the audience stands up and cheers. We hope we get the same reaction with Miami Libre.”

Written by Tiempo Libre’s Jorge Gomez, manager Elizabeth Sobol, and director Toby Gough, the show is almost completely local to Miami including dancers, actors, designers, musicians and most importantly—the audience. The final set will complete the experience when audience members are invited on stage to share in the evening’s culminating song and dance.

As the host for the world premiere, the Arsht Center is hoping for a successful turnout.

“We had great feedback from community leaders in our workshops, but we won’t know until the last week when the lights go up and the sets are finished. We’ll know when we see the audience’s reaction,” says a hopeful Shiller.

Though the show has not yet premiered, international eyes are observing closely. Overseas, Miami and Cuban culture are hot commodities, and the production has already courted interest from European, Middle Eastern and Asian venues. Should Miami Libre debut as successfully as producers hope, the show could go on to spread its message of heritage and hope to audiences around the globe.

read the full article: Miami ArtZine