The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego Debuts World Premiere Musical

Commissioned Piece The Gardens of Anuncia Reflects on Life Meaning, the Power of Family and Sorority.

The cast of The Gardens of Anuncia, 2021. Photo by Jim Cox.
A Blog-View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti
Kalyn West in The Gardens of Anuncia. Photo by Jim Cox.
Inspired by true events in the life of Broadway Dancer and Choreographer Graciela Daniele during her upbringing in Argentina, amid the Perón dictatorship, the plot involves her grandmother (Granmama Magdalena, played by Mary Testa), and aunt Lucía (Andréa Burns) who move in when her father abandons her and her mother Carmen (Eden Espinosa). Anuncia is Daniele´s figure in this piece, played simultaneously by a young (Kalyn West) and older version (Carmen Roman). 

Directed and Choreographed by Graciela Daniele, the musical is by her long-time friend Michael John LaChiusa. The set resembles a garden in a bionic kind of setting. Long strings with orchid-like-looking flowers hang from the ceiling. Mark Wendland created a multidimensional atmosphere that compliments the flashbacks Anuncia shares during the story. The lighting design is also a big component as Jules Fisher (Graciela´s husband) and Peggy Eisenhauer play with purple, white, and green tones that accentuate key moments like a tango sequence, saying goodbye, and being arrested.

Tally Sessions in The Gardens of Anuncia. Photo by Jim Cox.
Rubin and Rubiano´s casting is spot on with the impeccable and potent voices of all female cast members. And, as with all premieres, especially musicals, there is room for improvement. Andréa Burns showcased her vocal abilities in a more mature and impressive way for this piece. During the song "The Annunciation" even though it is a harmonization between Testa, Burns, and Espinosa, the last two bring it to an ethereal level. The rest of the songs need some tweaking. The opening number tends to be repetitive, therefore lingering, and not in a good way. "Malagueña" performed by only Eden Espinosa, is strong as what Espinosa is known for yet, the term -Malagueña- is a significant one in the Hispanic world hailing from the south of Spain, that involves a specific way of dancing and singing accompanied by guitars. With a cultural meaning like this and, in an Argentinian setting, the song lacks a bit of climactic structure. 

Two pleasant surprises are Kalyn West as younger Anuncia and Tally Sessions in various roles. One being literally 'a deer in headlights. Excellently played and portraying not only acting abilities but vocal ones like in the song "Dance While You Can" along with Carmen Roman, gifting the audience with a very pleasant and moving dance sequence. West as younger Anuncia, shows a triple threat with precise and comedic delivery as graceful and delicate dancing, rounding it out with a melodic, potent voice. 

Carmen Roman in The Gardens of Anuncia. Photo by Jim Cox.
One can appreciate the awareness of an actor while delivering a role onstage. This is specific to the opening night performance...There was a point in the middle of the show where Carmen Roman delivered a line that referenced the power of women, a strong YES! came from the audience. Roman proved her veteran histrionic skills by gracefully acknowledging the engaged and excited theatre-goer, with a very subtle nod as she went along with her delivery. It makes me think along the run, what other surprises may come. 

Gardens of Anuncia is kind of a farewell letter from Graciela making peace with her career, upbringing, and life. It also proves that she is indeed a star. One of her dearest and closest friends decided to create a full-on musical production of her life. Focusing on her family in Argentina, and how she left the country during those dangerous times to move to Europe and then the US, was a good decision for the narrative as well as adding a magic realism sprinkle with a mock-ish tone throughout the storytelling. 

People who are not aware of Daniele or her career now have a chance to be. This will resonate differently with each person depending on the stage of life they are in. 

We all are born, live, and will pass on. No denying that.

The Gardens of Anuncia is currently playing at The Old Globe Theatre from Tuesday to Sunday until October 17. Wearing a facemask is required during the performance that runs approximately 2 hours without intermission. A vaccine card or negative COVID test is required to enter the theatre. For more information on rules, performance times, and dates please go to their website 

(from left) Kalyn West as Younger Anuncia, Andréa Burns as Tía (Lucia), Mary Testa as Granmama (Magdalena), and Eden Espinosa as Mamí (Carmen) in The Gardens of Anuncia, 2021. Photo by Jim Cox.

Shameless plug: listen to me talk to awesome artists and the arts in our wonderful podcast From Another Zero. The latest episode is "Disability Thinking Twice with Valerie Salgado".

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