Who doesn’t love live theater, and last week it was even better because we were able to witness a bit of Mexican history and nostalgia, too. The traveling show “Perfume de Gardenia” was in town at the LoboDome. We (thankfully) went to the early show on Friday night. More about that later!
The show included fantastic costumes, great music, dancing, singing, fireworks, and a who’s who of 1950s-70s movie and telenovela stars. I didn’t know many of the stars, and enjoyed watching the audience almost as much as the show itself. So this blog post has been a good chance to learn a bit.
The musical is based on the song of the same name from the Mexican Tropical big band group, La Sonora Santanera. I recommend you hit the song link above, turn on the music, and listen as you read this post.
The band was terrific: a wonderful blast from the past and at the same time music we all still love to move to (danzón, mambo, bolero, cumbia, rumba, chachacha). They are definitely getting added to my playlists. La Sonora Santanera was of course founded in the 1950s by Tabascan trumpeteer Carlos Colorado Vera, who was killed in a traumatic accident in his band’s bus in 1986, while departing the Feria de San Marcos. These days it seems there are at least four groups similarly named, one including original survivors, one created by Carlos’ widow and daughter, etc.
The predictable Cinderella-like story is primarily a vehicle for the audience to relive the heyday of some of their favorite stars. It takes place in a nightclub called the Mamboo, and involves a poor and humble yet beautiful and good-hearted girl who works in the club selling cigarettes. Her name is Gardenia, and she is played by telenovela favorite Aracely Arámbura. She seems to be most famous for having dated Luis Miguel; at least that’s what most of my Mexican friends mention first.
The real stars of the show were not the younger actors/singers/dancers in their prime, but rather those who remain in the audience’s heart from decades past.
One huge favorite was María Victoria, who played Gardenia’s mother. At 78 years old she still has an incredible voice as well as quite a trim figure! From Guadalajara, she is most famous for having played the maid “Inocencia” in a 1970s television show. When she appeared on stage the audience erupted in joy and applause. It was honestly delightful. María Victoria wore her trademark “mermaid” dresses (my term for her tight-tight-tight dresses with a flared “tail” at the hem).
One of the big older male draws was Michoacan-born movie and telenovela star Julio Aleman, who played Gardenia’s godfather, Don Ferrucho. Don Ferrucho’s best friend, Don Pedrito, was played by Alejandro Suarez.
60s and 70s Dominican-born sex symbol Andrés García was one of my faves. He played Abundio Sandoval, a famous politician and Mamboo Club regular who even in his old age successfully romances the Club’s star dancer, Miranda. It was classic machísmo at its charming best!
Which brings me to my personal favorite of the evening: Niurka Marcos. She played Miranda Mour, the sexy singing-dancing cabaret star of the Mamboo who gives Gardenia her big break. While I don’t usually go for bombshells, she was just so very comfortable dancing her heart out in only pasties and a thong. The Cubana seemed perfectly suited to her role.
Most of the Mazatlecos I spoke with, however, couldn’t stop talking about “la rubia,” Argentine Roxana Martinez.
Safety and Logistics
Okay, enough of my learning curve about the stars of the show. I also want to comment on some of the logistics. We have some terrific events here in Mazatlán. But, it is my sincere hope that organizers will start to place a higher priority on audience safety.
- The most frightening thing for me was the exit: there was one door. It was a double door, but one side of it was blocked shut by cables. So, 1500 people attempted to exit through one very normal sized door. It was not pretty. What would have happened in an emergency? I guess we could have exited through the entrance as well, but there were 1500 more people out that way, waiting to get in.
- As we exited, we were walking over light and sound cables taped all over the gym floor. It was so crowded we could not see the floor. There were a lot of older people in the crowd. Most everyone tripped at least once. It was truly a safety hazard.
- We guess there were about 1500 people in the LoboDome Friday night. There was ONE restroom for women, and another for men. The women’s restroom had, at best, five stalls. The entrance to the women’s restroom was very narrow — maybe two people could pass in its corridor. But, someone had left a floor polishing machine in the middle of the entrance, so all the women going to the restroom had to climb over it to get in and out! The line was unbelievable. To remedy this, the organizers had placed port-a-potties in the lobby! And, mind you, tickets for this show ranged in price from about US$30 to nearly $100.
- The fireworks displays during the show were gorgeous: really, really exciting and beautiful. However, we were in an enclosed space and there was a whooooooole lot of smoke with very little ventilation. My eyes and throat burned for two days afterwards.
I know my community can do better than this! We owe it to the citizens of Mazatlán to raise our safety standards!
And, by the way, why did I say earlier that I was glad we had gone to the early show? The late show was supposed to start at 9:30. We didn’t even leave the first show until maybe 10:15 — 45 minutes past the programmed start of the second show. The venue staff still had to clean up all the trash (vendors walked through the stands as at a sporting event, selling drinks, popcorn and snacks), rearrange the chairs on the floor, and reset the stage. I imagine the earliest that the 9:30 show started was 11:30. I know locals are much more flexible with time than is my German-American mind, but I am so glad I wasn’t standing in line waiting all that time. This is a touring show. Organizers, please include instructions to local venues about how long the show really lasts, and how long it will take to reset the theater for a second show!
Entertainment in Mazatlán
Greg and I were very happy we attended “Perfume de Gardenia.” It was a very enjoyable evening. It also showed us, yet again however, how very fortunate (and spoiled) we are here in Mazatlán. Both of us felt that the quality of the dancing we have here locally, be it Delfosmodern dance or the ballet, is of a higher quality than what we saw in this touring national show. The band was terrific, but no better than the Mambo Café band we danced with live (and free) in the streets of Olas Altas last June. I thank goodness for special events like this, and I also thank my lucky stars that we have outstanding local talent to enjoy all year long.