Article and Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)
Pride, relief, accomplishment, love and joy were just some of the many emotions happening at the after party following the opening night performance of American Mariachi at the Stage Theater of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
People came from across the country, from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, San Diego as well as Colorado to see the world premiere of this emotionally touching yet hilarious production. Several were family, friends and supporters (read more about the making of this play HERE)
While the play itself has been in development for a couple of years since being featured at a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Final production began just a little over a month ago with cast members coming together in Denver shortly after Christmas. None of of them knew one another at the time but have quickly grown into a family full of love and appreciation for what they have brought to the play and one another. “We have all become an instant family” said one of the cast members.
The production got off to a rough start as director James Vasquez was seriously ill in San Diego as was not able to get on a plane to Denver. “His temperature was 103, we couldn’t get him out of bed much less to Denver” said his partner. I knew how much he wanted to be here but we had to wait days until his temperature came down to 99 degrees and then there was no stopping him,” he added.
His dad who came who came from San Diego to see the play on opening night said he was very proud of all his son’s accomplishments. Vasquez who is making his directorial debut in Denver with American Mariachi is also the co-founder of Daisy 3 pictures whose films have won various awards around the U.S.
Playwright Jose Cruz Gonzalez called the staff at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), “Magical Unicorns” saying, “you conceive magic here and allow us to tell a story” adding “I am so grateful and so honored to be here”. The DCPA commissioned Gonzalez to produce American Mariachi and is a co-production with the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. The Globe is one of San Diego’s largest arts institutions, its leading arts employer, and among the nation’s top-ranked regional theaters.
Gonzalez told Latin Life Denver that he was not so much relieved to have opening night over with but relieved in that he felt confident that the play is in good hands for the rest of it’s run in Denver and that he can return to San Diego to get ready for the plays run there in just one month after closing in Denver.
“I auditioned in New York for this production and am thrilled to be part of this show, said Doren Montavlo who plays Amalia, the mother who has had a sudden onset of early Dementia. Montavlo most recently played Gloria Estefan’s mother in the Broadway production of “On Your Feet” as well as starred on Broadway with “In The Heights”. Montavlo told Latin Life Denver she had worked with Lin Manuel Miranda, the two time Tony Award winner for best Broadway way Musical, for nine years when he first came on to the Broadway scene. Miranda won the Tony Award for best musical in 2008 for “In The Heights” and again in 2017 for “Hamiliton”.
None of us new each other a month ago said Heather Valazquez, who plays Hortensia, Lucha’s effervesant prima, (cousin). “Not only that but none of us had ever played a mariachi instrument before and most of had not played any type of instrument. So in a way having to learn to play those instruments was a reflection of the play itself when the all the ladies decide to form a mariachi band even though they have no experience, no instruments and limited knowledge of what mariachi music even is. So yes that was kind of scary to have learn how to do that with a bunch of strangers and make it all happen in a short amount of time. But we did it and tonight was the culmination of all that work.” Velazquez had also come to play from New York just off her starring role in “Pipeline” at the Lincoln Center.
“Someone recommended me to the producers, I have no idea who, but here I am taking part in this wonderful show and traveling the country,” said Fernando Guadalupe Zarate Hernadez who plays the Trumpet in the five piece male mariachi group that plays live throughout the show. “They said they were looking for best mariachi players in the country, not the best mariachi band but the best players so they put the five of us together. We don’t even have a name as we have never played together before this play. I am so flattered to have been selected” added Hernandez.
“I’m from Los Angeles by way of Jalisco, Mexico” said Rubin Marin who plays the guitarron. Someone recommended me also and they auditioned me in Los Angeles and now here I am in Denver, Colorado. I have been playing mariachi since I was five years old beginning in the famous Mariachi Plaza of Jalisco. “Jalisco has the best mariachi players in Mexico and I have played with some of the best but acting was totally new to me,” said Marin.
“It has really helped my career knowing how to read music. While all the other kids were out playing soccer my dad kept me inside always teaching me music,” he added.
Another one of the world class musicians in the play is Martin Padilla. He is a is a violinist and vocalist for the world renowned, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. He has accompanied some of most recognized Latin American recording artists, including Linda Ronstadt, Marco Antonio Muniz, Pepe Aguilar, Marco Antonio Solis, and Paquita la del Barrio.His most recent accomplishments include a presentation on the PBS documentary, Mariachi: The Spirit of Mexico.
All the cast of American Mariachi have impeccable backgrounds and all have a story to tell. For now they are telling the story of a couple of young women, cousins, who set out to form an all women’s mariachi group at a time when it was unheard of nor wanted.
Read our review coming soon.
American Mariachi plays at the Stage Theater at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through February 25th. Tickets start at just $20. The entire cast, set, creative team and mariachis will then leave Denver and re-open at the Globe theater in San Diego on March 23rd.
The buzz on this opening night was that American Mariachi is destined for Broadway. I couldn’t agree more and am looking forward to that opening night party.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media