Review: Old Globe’s new musical “Gardens of Anuncia”, a little charmer

The charming little gem of the musical “Les Jardins d’Anuncia” by Michael John LaChiusa is melodic, funny, warm and full of star performances. But like a little box of chocolates, when its quick 90 minutes are up, you want more.

“Gardens” opened on Friday in a world premiere production that kicked off The Old Globe’s 202`1-22 indoor season. LaChiusa wrote the book, music and lyrics as a love letter to longtime friend and Broadway collaborator Graciela Daniele, 81, whose career will be honored on Sunday with a special Lifetime Achievement Award. career at the 74th annual Tony Awards. Daniele directed and co-choreographed “Gardens”, inspired by his adolescence in 1940s Argentina during the fascist regime of Juan Peron.

“Gardens” barely touches on Daniele’s career. Her barely veiled onstage alter-ego, 70-year-old Older Anuncia (played nostalgically by Carmen Roman), said in the show’s opening minutes that she would rather plant in her garden than receive an award. careers. For the rest of the show, the former Anuncia instead digs into the roots of her childhood memories. Some of these memories are real, some have been rewritten over time, and some have been suppressed because they are too painful to recall.

Much of the story takes place during Anuncia’s teenage years (a graceful Kalyn West plays Younger Anuncia), when she was raised by three fiercely independent Argentine women: her divorcee Mamí (a fiery Eden Espinosa), her Separated Granmama (the fiercely funny Mary Testa) and her unmarried aunt, Tía (a sweet and endearing Andrea Burns) – who all died before the musical began.

Kalyn West as Younger Anuncia, left, Andréa Burns as Tía, Mary Testa as Granmama and Eden Espinosa as Mamí in “The Gardens of Anuncia” from The Old Globe.

(Jim Cox)

Thanks to the magical scenic design of Mark Wendland and the beautiful shimmering lighting design of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, these ghosts from Anuncia’s past appear in her memories as she walks through a ‘garden’ of hanging and fiber optic vines. colored. As her memories melt into the haze, the actors disappear behind shifting columns of jewel-toned light.

LaChiusa’s lush 15-song score, performed with pulsing percussion and brass by a backstage orchestra, is peppered with Latin beats of bolero, tango and mambo, and its lyrics run through a rich vein of humor and heart. Several cast members have worked with LaChiusa in the past, so he wrote them lines and lyrics that showcase their strengths. The powerful champion Espinosa shines through her solos “Malagueña” and “The Trial”. And with her deadpan comedic delivery, Testa steals all of her scenes, especially in the song “Waiting / Dreaming”.

Enrique Acevedo and Tally Sessions embody all the men, real and imagined, in the life of Anuncia. The series’ central conflict is Anuncia’s complicated memory of “That Man,” her selfish father who abandoned the family when she was 6 and possibly sexually traumatized her. Thinking back on her life, Elder Anuncia must decide which memories are worth saving and how to keep moving forward without the feminine forces guiding her life.

At first glance, “The Gardens of Anuncia” is entertaining, fun to watch and listen to, and filled with top notch performances. But its short duration left me with a lot of questions. If Tía taught Anuncia to love the music and the art that would shape her life, why is Tía’s own story a mystery? Why does Younger Anuncia not have her own song “I want” or a good start for her future artistic career in France? Why is Mamí’s return after an absence of several months so little taken into account? And why are there talking deer in the garden of Anuncia? With more script development, this gem will really shine.

“The Gardens of Anuncia”

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with some exceptions. Until October 17.

Or: Old Globe Theater, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego.

COVID Policy: Evidence of vaccine or negative PCR test within 72 hours of required curtain. Face mask compulsory

Tickets: $ 37 and more

Call: (619) 234-5623

In line: theoldglobe.org