In a misguided attempt to salute the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund by supplying a mixture of on-target Hispanic talents and less-than-Latin entertainers, the all-star “fiesta” at Ford’s Theater only occasionally hits the mark. Despite the presence of President and Mrs. Bush, the excitement is contained.
The variety format hosted by Ricardo Montalban and Jimmy Smits would be fine if all the entries were top-of-the-line and totally Hispanic. David Copperfield’s ingenious illusion has been all but swamped by a pair of seductive women; a sultry Vanessa Williams chirps an outstanding (and misplaced) bluesy “What Will I Tell My Heart?”; and Barry Manilow delivers, with chorus, a platitudinous “Let Freedom Ring” anthem.
On the other hand, Rita Moreno superbly sings a dramatic “Aranjuez,” and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval serenades with a topflight “Ballad From the Bottom of My Heart.” Paul Rodriguez’s comedy routine is mild, but Vikki Carr’s “Somos Novios” is striking. Celia Cruz’s “Babalu” is witty, and a taped-from-Detroit seg with Jose Carreras singing a stirring “Apri” strikes home.
Raul Julia delivers a taped message about the scholarship fund, but doesn’t tell enough. Co-host Montalban, speaking to Lincoln’s empty box, delivers an eloquent address about education.
Elliott Lawrence was musical director for so-so affair taped June 14 at Ford’s. Producer Joseph Cates directed uneven spec, with unimaginative camerawork cutting to audience.