×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Selena, A Musical Celebration of Life

This worshipful musical chronicle of the life and untimely demise of the Texas-born singer features the considerable talents of Cristina Souza (who alternates with Veronica Vazquez) in the title role and the fluid staging of Miranda Garrison (who also choreographed biopic "Selena"), highlighted by Bob Esty's dynamic instrumental ensemble.

Legit musical based on the short-lived career of late Tejano music legend Selena Quintanilla finally has made it to a local stage. A production announced last year for the Universal Amphitheatre was canceled shortly before its premiere; this Doolittle Theater staging was postponed by a week. This worshipful musical chronicle of the life and untimely demise of the Texas-born singer features the considerable talents of Cristina Souza (who alternates with Veronica Vazquez) in the title role and the fluid staging of Miranda Garrison (who also choreographed biopic “Selena”), highlighted by Bob Esty’s dynamic instrumental ensemble. Unfortunately, the production is weighed down by Edward Gallardo’s ponderous book and a slew of unneeded musical numbers, which impede the narrative and musical flow.

The main obstruction is the incomprehensible inclusion of a narrator, Accordion Man (Sal Lopez), a dysfunctional version of “Evita’s” Che. Lopez’s hyper but redundant narration and monumentally out-of-tune vocal renditions of mundane programmatic fare, such as “The Ballad of Selena” and “A New Contract,” only dilute the impact of Souza’s perf and Selena’s inherently compelling biography.

The proceedings also are sidetracked by show’s attempt to portray every aspect of Selena’s early life, including a lengthy segment on young Selena (Natalie Herrera) learning her craft singing at her father’s restaurant (“Papa Gayo’s”) and a seemingly endless depiction of the Quintanilla family of performers on the road (“On the Bus and Around Texas”).

What does work are the energetic re-creations of Selena in concert, featuring Souza’s vibrant renditions of “Como la Flor,” “Baila Esta Cumbia,” the first act closer “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “La Caracacha” and her English-language crossover hit “I Will Survive.” Souza also demonstrates captivating dramatic flair as Selena struggles to free herself from the dominating influence of her career-driven father, Abraham (Danny Bolero), while recognizing the deepening love she feels for her guitarist/boyfriend Chris (Aaron Lohr). Souza and Lohr achieve a haunting synergy on duets “I Could Fall in Love,” “Dreaming of You” and “I Want to Grow Old With You.”

The members of the supporting cast have their moments. Bolero (who alternates with Mike Gomez) is believable as the loving but unbending family patriarch who’s slow to realize his daughter’s growing maturity. He also exhibits impressive vocal prowess. He’s matched by Marta Dubois’ outing as Selena’s empathetic mother, Marcella. Gabriel Gonzalez and Liza Ybarra offer much-needed comic relief as Selena’s irreverent brother A.B. and sister Suzette, respectively.

Also deserving mention are the highly skilled perfs of Herrera, who displays powerful vocals as young Selena, and diminutive Agina Alvarez, who offers a transcendent, show-closing, a cappella reprise of “Como La Flor.”

Selena, A Musical Celebration of Life

Doolittle Theater; 495 seats; $55 top

  • Production: A Luna Theatrical Prods. presentation of a musical play in two acts, book & lyrics by Edward Gallardo, original music by Fernando Rivas. Directed and choreographed by Miranda Garrison.
  • Crew: Musical director, Bob Esty. Sets, Randy Blom; lighting, Jeremy Gossett; costumes, Sylvia Castro; sound, Tom Space, David Dansky. Opened and reviewed April 19, 2001; closes May 20. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.
  • Cast: Selena - Cristina Souza Abraham - Danny Bolero Marcella - Marta DuBois Chris - Aaron Lohr Young Selena - Natalie Herrera Accordion Man - Sal Lopez Suzette - Liza Ybarra Billy - Mario Rocha A.B. Quintanilla - Gabriel Gonzalez <B>Ensemble:</B> Roberto Alcaraz, Agina Alvarez, Natalie Amaya, Bianca Collins, Maria Eberline, Omar Gudino, Asanio Issac Lara, Celia Leyva-Hernandez, Deborah Ortega, Teresa Marie Sanchez, Leticia "Castaneda" Taylor.<br> <B>Selena's band: </B>Bob Esty, Arturo Meza, Tom Regis, Karl Carrasco, Eraldo Melo, Grecco Burratto, Daniel Groisman, Jeff Nathanson, Julio Figueroa.
  • Music By: