LatinXoxo: Virgin, Whore, Matador

Lead Article, Reviews

By Kia Standard
 
As he enters through the crowd at Joe’s Pub, crowned with a halo of bamboo and roses, Migguel Anggelo is anything but subtle. He belts out the song “Bésame Mucho” in a rich baritone, while clutching a rosary and gingerly sprinkling rose petals along his path. When he reaches the stage, he plays a coy game of “He loves me, he loves me not…” then shoves the rosary down the front of his flame‑red skirt. Only red flowers remain as he releases the top of his headdress, transforming into an emboldened Carmen, the diva from Bizet’s opera. “I’m not here for your amusement; I’m here for mine,” he proclaims.
 
A dramatic chord change launches the performer into Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” as he recalls a time when love went terribly wrong. After all, this evening is all about love: the good, the bad, and the unrequited. Tonight, the quest for love will be consummated on the “diva’s” terms. “This [body] is for who I choose.”
 
Donning three‑inch heels, Mr. Anggelo stomps to the syncopations of flamenco, proving he is just as skilled a dancer as he is a singer. Head held high, he rhythmically waves a black fan, as the band accompanies him on guitar and percussion. In his next transformation, he dramatically tears off his red skirt to reveal fitted bolero pants; now the skirt becomes a bullfighter’s cape, a clever creation by costume designer Ryan Park. Mr. Anggelo explains to the crowd that he is not a Matador; he is a Torero, a bullfighter in training. The main difference is a Torero has never killed.
 
“LatinXoxo,” the brainchild of the Venezuelan‑born Mr. Anggelo, is a well‑crafted love letter to all things Latin. More importantly, this piece takes on the stereotypes of Virgin, Whore, and Matador usually forced onto representations of Latin culture, and spins them on their heads. Mr. Anggelo, the perfect chameleon, transforms himself with costumes, voice, and movement to break the boundaries of gender. He asks: What is masculinity? What is femininity? What is love, for that matter?
 
Joining Mr. Anggelo onstage is an ensemble of top‑notch musicians: Alberto Jiménez on guitar, Rudyck Vidal Espinosa on guitar and bass, Joel Mateo on percussion, and Jaime Lozano, the show’s pianist, musical arranger, and esteemed “Maestro.” Thanks to Mr. Lozano’s arrangements, the song list is a smooth blend of bolero, classical, and Brazilian, with a dash of R&B.
 
“Maestro, I’m going to need something dramatic.” With this request, Mr. Anggelo makes an unexpected turn. Instead of ramping up the music, he gently wipes away his mask of makeup, and downshifts into a heartfelt rendition of Adele’s “So You Can Feel My Love.” Later, he regales us with a beautiful aria. At moments like these, I caught myself leaning in to hear the purity of Migguel Anggelo’s voice. Although I appreciated his larger‑than‑life showmanship, I longed for a few more of these quiet encounters.
 
Throughout the evening, Mr. Anggelo playfully engages his audience by walking through the tables and chairs at Joe’s Pub to speak to his patrons directly. At one point, he grabbed an audience member’s cell phone to scroll through Grindr, the dating app, then searched the room to find a potential match. “Is it you?” he asked, approaching various audience members. “No, it’s  you,” he laughed teasingly.
 
Although “LatinXoxo” never lost momentum, somewhere in the middle, the story lost its thread, in its many guises as a traditional cabaret, performance art, and social commentary. But maybe that’s the point. The show, like love and gender, is not meant to have labels thrust upon it. Mr. Anggelo’s message is a simple one. Love has no boundaries, borders or walls. Scribble this message on a slip of paper, and carry it with you always. That way, you’ll have it as a constant reminder, when the world tries to tell you otherwise.
 
LatinXoxo – An Unrequited Serenata
Conceived by Migguel Anggelo
Directed and developed by Srđa Vasiljević
Book by J. Julian Christopher
January 31 – February 1, 2019 at 7PM
Photo credit by Ryan Muir
Joe’s Pub
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette St
New York City
 
KIA STANDARD is a writer and musical theater performer, who has appeared in regional and international productions of “West Side Story,” “The King and I”, “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” She received an MA in Creative Writing/Nonfiction from The Johns Hopkins University, and has published articles and profiles for various talent magazines. Ms. Standard is currently working as a musical playwright.

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