Asolo Rep theatergoers who remember Ana Isabelle’s powerhouse performance in the lead role of Evita in 2017 will be glad to know the singer-actress is back onstage later this month at the company’s outdoor Terrace Stage, with a concert production featuring some of her own favorite Latin and Broadway music.
She’ll also be directed once again by Josh Rhodes, who performed that task for Evita. And she’ll be joined onstage by fellow Evita cast members Justin Gregory Lopez (Che) and tango dancers extraordinaire Guadalupe Garcia and Junior Cervila.
The show, Ana Isabelle & Friends in Concert: Stand Back, Sarasota! is a byproduct of—what else?—the coronavirus pandemic. Isabelle, who was slated to make her Broadway debut in 2020, along with appearing in the long-delayed Steven Spielberg movie remake of West Side Story (now coming in December) saw her plans for the Great White Way dashed. But luckily, the Asolo’s producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards reached out to her to see if she might be interested in doing a performance here.
“We started talking about different ideas, and if I should bring my team from Puerto Rico [where she was born],” says Isabelle. “I thought instead we should bring [music director] Sinai Tabak and Josh and create something that goes with what I’m doing right now.”
Isabelle, who’s also a recording artist, had been working in musicals and establishing her acting career, and was actually rehearsing the first production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights to take place in Puerto Rico when the Covid shutdown occurred. “My life changed completely,” she says. “My parents didn’t want me to go back to New York. At first I was working on self-care; then I started to feel like I needed to do something more.” She ended up hosting an entertainment show on a television network there while also still writing music.
For director-choreographer Rhodes, the shutdown occurred as he was in Sarasota working on the world premiere of Knoxville, which was postponed. “As a director, I kept working on scripts with writers, but then it began to feel so silly to do that, not knowing when you can do them. So it was wonderful when Michael called,” he says.
On his end, Rhodes says, the upcoming concert is “not a show with a narrative. It has four stars, and you’re going to walk away getting to know these four incredible talents. It will be wonderful for audiences to see who Ana is as a person and what she loves.”
“We have a whole medley dedicated to Broadway,” Isabelle says. “There’s also a Latin medley, and some surprises, too. I’m hoping Sarasota will enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoying working on it.”
Safe distancing may provide some challenges in staging, Rhodes says. But fortunately the tango couple—Garcia and Cervila—are married, so they can connect with all the physicality and sensuality tango requires.
Overall, Isabelle says, “We’re just appreciating that we’re able to have an audience. I’m going to say forgive me if I’m going to be too energetic! I’m going to give it all.”
Previews for Ana Isabelle & Friends begin April 15, with the official run April 17-24. Check for more details at asolorep.org.