“Chavela: Think of Me”
Don’t Tell Mama
April 12 and May 17.
Trudeau, whose Puerto Rican mother inspired her love for Mexican music, pays homage to Chavela Vargas, the famed Mexican Ranchera singer. The piece is both an entertainment and a documentary theater project on Chavela’s life, invoking issues of gender issues, gay rights, immigration and Mexican culture. It is also the very first Ranchera musical. The show begins at 7:00 PM both dates; the running time is one hour and reviewers are invited to both performances.
The show is characterized as a “docu-cabaret musical” because it combines spoken word and stories about the iconic singer Chavela Vargas with performances of key songs of her career. It traces the famed Ranchera singer’s artistic evolution and the key relationships of her life, including those with her musical mentor, Jose Alfredo Jimenez (the world’s greatest composer of Ranchera songs), the painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the great Cuban courtesan Macorina and the producers, notably Pedro Almodovar, who enabled her comeback at age 72 after a 15 year battle with alcoholism. Trudeau is accompanied by her arranger, David Lahm on piano and by Diego Cebollero on guitar. Direction is by Tanya Moberly.
Trudeau also examines the culture of Latin America’s “golden age” from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. The narration and stories are in English, but Vargas’ Ranchera songs and Latin American pop hits are sung in Spanish with some translated lyrics. With multimedia, Trudeau shares historical images of the principal characters, the art world and social and milieu of mid-century Mexico City when it was the cultural capital of Latin America. Mexican and Salsa dancing are used to establish place and time.
The show debuted at Pangea in 2017, where it was invited back for a return engagement. This updated version was presented last month at Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles.
Stephanie Trudeau has been an actress and singer for over 40 years, performing in NYC cabaret, Off-Broadway and regional theater. Her other cabaret shows have included one on the body of work of June Christy, a noted jazz artist who sang in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and whom Trudeau studied as an archivist. This was followed by “Stephanie Trudeau Sings the American Songbook,” a recurring attraction at Palmira’s Restaurant in Brooklyn Heights and other venues. It was supported by grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council, The Puffin Foundation and NYC Councilman Ken Fisher. Trudeau was selected for a nine-month residency in Italy as a Fulbright Scholar for cultural and musicological research connected to three saints’ festivals. Her findings from that fellowship just might be reflected in her next show. She was a founding member, actor and producer of New Directions Theatre Company (NYC) and has acted prolifically in regional theater and TV. As part of her studies in Dramatic Arts at University of California Santa Barbara, she authored a major academic paper on the American popular song movement and its canon, which she wrote under the tutelage of her mentor at CUNY, Jeffrey Taylor, Professor of Music at Brooklyn College.
For complete info on Ranchera Music and an in-depth bio of Chavela Vargas, see: www.jsnyc.com/season/chavela.htm.
The show’s website is: www.chavelathinkofme.com.
Performances are in the Brick Room of Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street.