La Havana Madrid returns, bringing cha cha, salsa, and love | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

La Havana Madrid returns, bringing cha cha, salsa, and love 

Sandra Delgado's immersive musical about a legendary 1960s Latinx nightclub is as heartfelt as ever.

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Joel Maisonet

La Havana Madrid, Sandra Delgado's award-winning immersive musical, returns to Chicago, transporting us to the vibrant Caribbean Latinx music scene of the 1960s. Filled with intimate vignettes of Cuban-, Colombian-, and Puerto Rican-American life, it paints a picture of young immigrants acclimating to life in a segregated city while searching for love and connection. It is a celebration of the power of music to unite people and to instill a feeling of belonging. "Music means home," as one character says, and the club becomes a place where all are welcome, where one can reignite a feeling of love.

La Havana Madrid embodies the spirit of the legendary Chicago nightclub, at times inviting enthusiastic audience members to dance. Delgado sings, while the renowned musician Roberto "Carpacho" Marin and his band provide butt-shaking musical accompaniment. The extraordinary cast explodes with vitality, wonderful dancing, and heartfelt singing, while traversing the challenges of a civil rights-era Chicago. Decaying neighborhoods, police shooting unarmed youth in Humboldt Park, and gentrification pushing out people of color ring all too familiar.

Music, dance, and humor embolden the newcomers to find their tenuous place in this foreign land while still reveling in their cultural history. Henry (Tommy Rivera-Vega) and Maruja (Alix Rhode), both with outstanding solo songs, are based on Delgado's parents who got married long-distance while he was in Chicago and she in Medellín, Colombia. An homage to Latinx and American history, La Havana Madrid is a delightful night of cha cha, salsa, and love.   v


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