If you’ve been feeling a little low energy these days, you can get an infusion of revitalizing juice by attending Asolo Rep’s Ana Isabelle & Friends in Concert, on the company’s outdoor Terrrace Stage.
Anyone who saw the Puerto Rican-born Isabelle and her “friends”—Justin Gregory Lopez and tango dancers Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia—in the Asolo’s Evita a few years back will recall their talent, whether for singing, dancing or acting. But even so, you may not be fully prepared for this swiftly moving one-act concert, directed and choreographed by Joshua Rhodes to display all of his stars’ pent-up enthusiasm for performing.
From the moment Isabelle first takes the stage, with special lyrics for the Evita-influenced “Stand Back, Sarasota,” it’s clear she’s determined to put it all out there. She’s virtually always on the move, except for the occasional slower, more somber song. While she and Lopez can’t dance closely together due to Covid protocols, their steps and gestures work with the songs they deliver. (Garcia and Cervila, who are married, fortunately can get as close as they want to on their tango numbers, which they designed themselves.)
Mostly, the evening is upbeat, with a representation of Isabelle’s Latin music roots on “Yo Te Recuerdo” and a song she wrote, “La Vida es Bella,” which serves as a rousing closer to a segment of hits by such Latina stars as Gloria Estefan, Selena and Shakira. The cast puts you in the mood to dance along with them.
Some of those pop songs may not be as familiar to everyone in the audience as those in what Lopez calls “the mother of all Broadway medleys.” That it is, with more than a dozen memorable numbers from such shows as Company, Wicked, Cats and Funny Girl. Isabelle launches that section with “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” setting the tone for other forceful songs like “Defying Gravity,” “Being Alive” (feelingly performed by Lopez) and the always infectious “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray. Not a beat is lost, indeed, as the singers make an occasional quick shift to the wings for a sip of water or a breath.
Of course, Evita is well represented here, as Isabelle dons the familiar white gown for such crowd pleasers as “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and “You Must Love Me.” And along the way during the evening, we’re also treated to Cervila and Garcia’s demonstration of what happens in the traditional Argentinian milonga, where there are strict roles of etiquette before the tango dancing even begins. It’s pretty amazing to see how the two have adapted to Garcia’s pregnancy; it doesn’t throw them off at all, and even provides an opportunity for an emotional moment on “A Parent’s Prayer.”
In general, though, the evening is spent on powerhouse songs in arrangements by Sinai Tabak that make you hear familiar favorites with fresh ears, backed by the driving force of music director James Rushin and his small band. As has been the case with earlier Terrace productions, the show is also helped along visually by projection designs, from Paul Tate DePoo III, that provide light, character and atmosphere fitting to the songs.
Isabelle, who’s appearing in the new film version of West Side Story due out in December, is obviously a bundle of talent ready to explode in any and all directions. If you have the chance to catch this show before it closes (scheduled for April 25), you should. Find out more about ticket availability at asolorep.org.