By Diana Saenger Let’s Review!
By Diana Saenger
Playwright Matthew Lopez ("The Whipping Man," which played at The Old Globe last year to become a critical success in New York) is back at The Globe with a new show, “Somewhere,” a warm and inspiring family saga directed by Giovanna Sardelli. The narrative is somewhat autobiographical as Lopez grew up in New York City in a family that migrated from Puerto Rico. He said the plot came from hearing stories about the time his father took his siblings into the city to be extras in “West Side Story.”
“They spent two weeks waiting on the set, and finally my dad made it in the legendary Jerome Robbins’ film in a small role,” Lopez said. Set in 1959, “Somewhere” follows a Puerto Rican family’s journey to find fame and fortune. But as matriarch Inez Candelaria works the dream of a life in show business for herself and her three children, she’s stopped cold in her tracks. It seems New York City has other plans; preparations loom to tear down their dwelling to make way for construction of the Lincoln Center.
“Growing up in a musical theater family, all being enormous aficionados, there’s a very particular energy that musical people give off, and I wanted to capture that in this play. I’m also a history buff, so marrying the history of the time with my family’s experiences was the genesis.”
“Somewhere” delivers on those elements perfectly. It’s easy to be drawn into the children’s dilemma of how to get stubborn mom (Priscilla Lopez) to finally leave their home or be arrested. Yet, how bad can things be when their lives are infused with the joy that comes from celebrating life through dance and music? Intricate dance numbers accompany each scene.
The three Candelaria siblings are as different as night and day. Juan Javier Cardenas, as Francisco Candelaria, is a hilarious loose cannon who can’t seem to find his niche but insists on worming his way into anyone else’s.
Jon Rua is outstanding as the younger brother Alejandro, a conflicted soul who can’t live out his own dream because he’s stepping in for their missing father. (Who is coming back … or is he?) Benita Robledo brings a smile every time she’s on stage as the little sister, Benita, hoping to breakthrough as a dancer. She’s full of life, optimism and eager to soar.
Lopez said he is thrilled that his aunt, award-winning actress Priscilla Lopez, is playing the mother, Inez.
“I was four years old when in the same week my parents took me to see Sandy Duncan in ‘Peter Pan’ and my aunt’s portrayal as Harpo Marx in Broadway’s ‘A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine’ (which won her a Tony Award),” Lopez said. “I grew up idolizing her.”
Priscilla Lopez was also nominated for a Tony for her role as Diana in the original Broadway cast of “A Chorus Line,” introducing the hit “What I Did for Love.” Her other Broadway credits include “West Side Story,” “In the Heights,” “Nine,” Lysistrata, “Pippin,” and “Henry, Sweet Henry
She’s an absolute joy to watch in “Somewhere,” hoofing it up like a seasoned veteran, indefatigable as a mother who wants the best for her children, and forlorn as a woman alone who longs for her love lost.
Fantastic choreography – especially on the tight set of this theater-in-the-round – by Greg Graham, includes the moves of Leo Ash Evens as the family friend-turned-producer Jamie, whom I could have watched for hours.
Despite the Candelaria family’s
endless energy, they must face some big obstacles on the journey to their dreams. Their passion and love unites in a magical memory that is both touching and unforgettable to those of us watching.
If you go
World premiere “Somewhere”
7 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays, some Wednesdays through Oct. 30
Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre, The Old Globe, Balboa Park