La Gran Via de Bollywood (© Jesus Alcantara, Teatro de la Zarzuela 2008)

Federico Chueca / Joaquín Valverde
Radical adaptation of Felipe Pérez y González’s original
by Paco Mir
La Gran Vía… esquina a Chueca

Teatro de la Zarzuela
(Madrid, January 31 and March 6, 2009)

Enrique Mejías García

Long life to La Gran Vía!

La Gran Vía doesn’t exist, for sure. It is created every time it goes up onto the stage, because it is made out of the real life of which it sings: the life of this city that is Madrid, outside time and its miseries. La Gran Vía is not intended to show the past or the future; we need only to walk along it to understand, and above all to enjoy it. At Teatro de la Zarzuela La Gran Vía has been reborn again, radiating so much light and joy to revolving audiences, so that there seems very little distance between 1886 and 2009; and you can still hear “vete tú que quiero ponerme yo” and see petty thievery “en los tranvías y ripperts – sorry, “in the buses and metros”! Paco Mir has scored a triple hit, honouring Madrid, Chueca and zarzuela itself; the only bricks that he builds with are good humour and its reverse – so what more could we want?

The key to this new version of La Gran Vía is the deconstruction/recreation of a text as powerful as Felipe Pérez’s original, which has never ceased to be adapted and updated throughout its history. On that topic, I have to congratulate our colleague Ignacio Jassa Haro for his programme note demonstrating the infinite possibilities of the zarzuela whereby, precisely, it makes little sense other than that in the “here-and-now.” Mir has worked with an exceptional artistic team – Jon Berrondo for most lifelike settings, Jesus Ruiz for eye-candy costumes, most especially in the opening “streets” scene. Nicolás Fischtel’s lighting, full of Madrid sunlight, was key.

Juan José Colomer’s musical arrangements helped provide lively personality to the spectacle despite some “sorry cuts” to the numbers. I completely understand that the homage and celebration of La Gran Vía is very special, but could not a short version have been programmed alongside an unknown Chueca sainete such as La caza del oso or Caramelo? This new version’s dramatic and musical amplitude – totalling up to two substantial acts, with over twenty musical numbers! - was garnished by other fragments from La alegría de la huerta, El bateo, Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente, El año pasado por agua and Las zapatillas. I’m sorry it was decided later to remove the delicate chotis from Los arrastraos that was at least played at the first night.

La Gran Via (© Jesus Alcantara, Teatro de la Zarzuela 2008)

This showful of “music, light and joy” was considerably helped by the diverse cast involved. No doubt the continuing appearance of film and TV comedians into género chico is a benefit, in bringing new ways of doing things, much more in line with its original spirit, radically theatrical and communicative. It is worth nothing if the three “tipos” in the Thieves’ Jota sing celestially, if they don’t speak to us. So we should applaud the excellent work of actors such as Loles León, a very plausible Secretary to the Urban Council, the exceptional Carlos Heredia as the responsible Municipal Councillor himself, the adorable 3rd Thief of Pepín Tre, Toni González as the “committed” presenter, and Noelia Pérez, who could have been straight out of Channel 4’s Callejeros, as a streetwalker. Karmele Aramburu deserves a special mention, perfect in every way in multiple personas as Calle Clavel, a Gomosa and the Stage Manager – let’s hope to see her more often in Calle Jovellanos.

CibelesAlongside  all of them we had some of our best singer-actors (or actor-singers?) in the most vocally exposed vocal roles. The divinely elegant Sabina Puértolas and María Rey-Joly took turns as Eliseo Madrileño and Cibeles. As for the rest Enrique Ruiz del Portal once again demonstrated his interpretative mastery as General Mitre, Sietemesino and especially as Neptune; Marco Moncloa was an unblemished Caballero de Gracia, Antonio Torres made us remember with pleasure our Traffic Police. Finally, though time has left its vocal mark, Milagros Martín still performs with charisma and enthusiasm for the fans as she flaunts the shawl of “her” Menegilda.

The Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, directed by maestros Miguel Roa and Luis Remartínez played (which is much!) with ease and energy. The coro del teatro, likewise,  showed skill and enthusiasm in moving to Teresa Nieto’s demanding choreography, although certain aspects of pitch and blend indicate some unfinished business.

Leaving Teatro de la Zarzuela after seeing La Gran Vía… esquina de Chueca to walk around Madrid, alongside the Telefónica tower, the Cibeles statue (despite the City Council…), taking a drink in the Chicote Bar, all the while humming or whistling some Chueca  – for young people, once again, La Gran Vía is reborn.

© Enrique Mejías García 2009
translation © Christopher Webber 2009

Cast: Doña Virtudes – Loles León; General Mitre, Neptuno, Rata Primero, Sietemesino – Enrique Ruiz del Portal; Libertad – Milagros Martín; Clavel, Gomosa, Regidora del teatro – Karmele Aramburu; Concejal – Carlos Heredia; San Bernardo, Rata Tercero, Rabindranath – Pepín Tre; Sevilla, Cibeles, Capitana, Eliseo – Sabina Puértolas (31 Jan) y María Rey-Joly (6 March); Caballero de Gracia – Marco Moncloa; Rata Cuarto, Regidor de Televisión, Presentador, Sartén – Toni González; Montera, Guía, Tropezada, Adriana, Espectadora – Noelia Pérez; Funcionario, Rata Segundo, Limosnero, Policía – Antonio Torres; Un ama – Paloma Curros; Una niñera – Inmaculada Rodríguez García; Un niño – Rosa Gutiérrez; Una niña – Thais Martín; Un chico – Carmen Gaviria; Ballet; Extras; Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela (d. Antonio Fauró); Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid; c. – Miguel Roa (31 January) and Luis Remartínez (6 March); d. and adaptor –  Paco Mir; Set design – Jon Berrondo; Costumes – Jesús Ruiz; Lighting – Nicolas Fischtel; Chorerography – Teresa Nieto; Photographs – Juan Martín; Musical arrangements – Juan José Colomer

en español frontpage

27 March 2009