The celebrated playwright Josefina Lopez’s latest production, “Queen of The Rumba,” is not her in fact newest. Originally written as a screenplay many years ago, it has been adapted for the stage quite beautifully and presents the true story of Alicia Parla, a Cuban woman who at the tender age of 21 ignited the world’s passion for the Cuban Rumba and made her an international star.
Under the tender guidance of Casa’s resident director and long-time collaborator Corky Dominquez, “Queen of the Rumba” takes on a magical quality. Told as a memory, as a dying Alicia spends what will be her final hours in the hospital, she talks to another patient, who is very young and afraid. She comforts her with the story of her life and what a life it was.
If you love to dance, then “Queen of the Rumba” is the perfect play for you. Filled with beautiful music and wonderful dancers, the play mesmerizes its audience from the very first moments. The actors that play the young Alicia and her nurse, who taught her the dance of Cuba, are absolutely brilliant and had the audience entranced.
But it’s the story that is the heart of this play. Alicia Parla’s story, as she literally had to run away from her family to fulfill her destiny as the courageous young woman who taught the world about Rumba.
The play flits between the hospital room with an energized if failing Alicia in her late 80s, Paris in the 30s with the young, beautiful and innocent Alicia as a star, and Cuba before and after her adventure in Europe. It’s a story of love, of loss, and of the pressure of family. In the 1930s in Cuba, before and after the revolution, women were fit for marriage and little else. So for Alicia, with the support of her mother, to venture out into the world as a dancer, well it was unheard of! She was inspired by the music and the dance of her country, but always torn by the need to perform and the respect of her traditional upbringing.
There is also a love story, between Alicia and a poor congo player she meets in Paris. She chose not to follow her heart and always regretted it. How many of us have done the same? A few more than you might imagine I’ll wager!
“Queen of the Rumba” is both a celebration of Rumba and of the freedom performing can bring us. Alicia’s story is written with love, admiration and a lot of humor. As the older Alicia holds court in the hospital and spins her tale, the audience is utterly riveted. Josefina Lopez is a brilliant storyteller.
But it is the stories she chooses to tell that are the most inspiring. I would never have known about this remarkable woman and her gift to the world had Ms Lopez not found her and shared her with us. How many more “Alicia Parla’s are there in the world, how many more stories of creative courage to challenge and inspire us?
“Queen of The Rumba” is a brilliant play performed by wonderful actors in a beautiful magical theatre in the heart of old Los Angeles. Casa 0101 is a gift to us all and we must support the kind of stories brought alive within its walls. How lucky are we to live through moments of such creativity? Bravo to all involved.
2102 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Running through October 22.
Paloma Morales (of West Covina, CA) and Angel Juarez (Montebello, CA) lead a cast of 12 as the 89-year-old Alicia Parlá and Young Alicia Parlá, age 21, respectively. Others in the cast include: Kenia Romero (of Sherman Oaks, CA) as 19-year-old Sofia Manzano; Mauricio Marte (of Marina del Rey, CA) as Marcos Martin, an Afro-Cuban and Congo Player in his twenties; Lolita Lazcano (of Studio City, CA) as Alicia’s 40-year-old mother, Goretta Parlá; Adam Jacobo (of Maywood, CA) as Alicia’s father, Alfonso Parlá in his late 40s/Jonathan, Prince of Wales; Peter Laboy (of Laguna Nigel, CA) as Band Leader and Conductor, Don Justo Azpizau; Vivian Marie Lamolli (of Beverly Hills, CA) as Rosita Vega, a 20-year-od Afro-Cuban Latina who is the Parlá family’s maid/”Espiritu de Amor”/Sister Reyes/Candy, French Cabaret Dancer; Sammy Montero (of Highland Park, CA) as Dr. Sanchez, 50s/Roberto Nelson, 40s/Producer); Maricella Ibarra (of Walnut, CA) as Mother Superior, 50s/Martina/French Cabaret Dancer/Bald Woman; Victoria Tamez (of Pico Rivera, CA) as Carmela Parlá, Alicia’s 24-year-old sister/Choreographer/Teenage Boy/French Cabaret Dancer) and Melvin Ward (of Hawthorne, CA) as Male Orderly/”The Moon,” Rosita Vega’s Boyfriend/Male Dancer/MC/Club Owner.
The production team for QUEEN OF THE RUMBA includes: Josefina López (of Silver Lake, CA), Playwright and Founding Artistic Director, CASA 0101 Theater; Emmanuel Deleage (of Silver Lake, CA), Producer and Executive Director, CASA 0101 Theater; Itzel Ocampo (of Alhambra, CA) Associate Producer and CASA 0101 Theater Office Administrator); Corky Dominguez (of Boyle Heights, CA), Director; Edward Padilla, (of Boyle Heights, CA) Casting Director and CASA 0101 Board Member; César Retana-Holguín (of Northridge, CA) Set Designer; Alejandro Parra (of Burbank, CA) Lighting Designer; Abel Alvarado (of Silver Lake, CA); Costume Designer; Jules Bronola (of Los Angeles, CA) Wardrobe Assistant; James Alonzo (Sound Designer); Omar Gutierrez (of Los Angeles, CA) Hair and Make-Up Designer; Rigo Tejeda (of Whittier, CA) Stage Manager; Izzy Donenberg (of Atwater Village, CA) Assistant Stage Manager; Doreen Sanchez (of Hollywood, CA) Assistant Stage Manager; Miguel Delgado (of Huntington Park, CA) CASA 0101 Theater Technical Director; Gabriela López de Dennis, Soap Studio Inc. (of Los Angeles, CA) Key Artwork Design and Program; Jorge Villanueva (of Boyle Heights, CA) Maintenance; Mark Kraus (of Los Angeles, CA), CASA 0101 Theater Development Director and Webmaster; Conrado TerrazasCross (of Echo Park, CA) Development Consultant; Oscar Basulto (of Boyle Heights, CA) Box Office; Al Aguilar (of Los Angeles, CA) Production Assistant; Rosa Navarrete (of El Sereno, CA) Social Media; Rudy Torres (of Los Angeles, CA) Production Photographer and Steve Moyer Public Relations (of Los Angeles, CA), Press Representative.