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‘Tango’ makes return trip to Sunnyside’s Thalia

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“Todo Tango,” the wildly successful dance musical which debuted at the Thalia Spanish Theatre back in June, is back for a limited return engagement until Feb. 17.

Conceived by producer and director Angel Gil Orrios - also the theater's executive director - and cast singer Marga Mitchell, the tragicomic dance/musical can be described as a Don Juan fable.

The 90-minute show features eight short vignettes, following the descent into ill health of a Don Juan-like character who incorrigibly indulges in sex, drugs, and the tango nightlife which we see catching up with him as the show progresses.

The philandering wastrel is played by Hector Pereyra, billed as El Pulpo, to hilarious perfection. His songs lamenting lost glory are counterpointed by his lover’s own, played by Mitchell, no doubt lamenting his cheating ways.

Although all songs are done in Spanish, the dancing of course, needs no translation. Done by professionals Mariana Parma, Carlos Acuna, Walter Perez, Karina Romero, Carolina Jaurena, and Victor Cervantes, it is topnotch. The imaginative lighting, also designed by Orrios, deserves mention as well.

This particular style of tango, “Tengo Nuevo,” has its roots with Astor Piazzolla, a brilliant young Argentine bandoneonista who grew up in New York. He blended the elements of tango, jazz and classical, making it far different (in traditiona­lists’ eyes) than tangos from Buenos Aires, tango’s birthplace. When first heard there, Tango Nuevo caused outrage. Some said it was not tango at all.

But the synergized hybrid was appealing to new enthusiasts of the dance form who were not bound by tradition.

The live band is a real treat. Bandleader Raul Jaurena's masterful playing of the bandoneon, a large accordion-like instrument of German origin, is as mesmerizing as the dancing itself. Excellent, too, is the playing of violinists Humberto Ridolfi and Leonardo Suarez-Paz, and pianist Maurizio Najt.

The womanizing cad’s imminent demise is depicted by a white-clad dancing Death, whose presence gets stronger with each reappearance. Jaurena's bellowed bandoneon creates rich sounding wails at times to herald Death's presence, which I never imagined possible.

At first he only senses Death, but near the end he even dances with her. This, along with two other numbers - one during which, after collapsing, the dancers each shun him in turn as they circle around him like pixies, and the other, where he smokes on his hospital deathbed, then gets up and starts dancing with his IV stand - are among the funniest.

“Todo Tango” will have you leaving the theater trying all those tango moves. But maybe you should leave out that risky one where you swing your feet and legs between your partner’s. Remember, these are professionals.

The Thalia Spanish Theater is at 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, two long blocks south of Queens Boulevard. It can be reached by taking the #7 local to 40th Street Station. Tickets are $25. Reservations are required. Call 729-3880.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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