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Review of WJT’s Chutzpah and Salsa Featuring The Mariachi Ghost

Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s Chutzpah and Salsa, June 27 – July 3. In the Tent on the Asper Campus (bring proof of vaccination).

by Jane Enkin, June 27,2022

Chutzpah and Salsa is a cabaret style presentation. Seating is at tables with a bar at the back of the tent, and brief, lovely memoirs alternate with exciting music.

The Storyteller, Andrea del Campo, reads the memoirs of Hispanic Jewish women. They all concern identity, and strong affirmations of the importance of family. Del Campo presents the stories in a clear, straightforward manner, allowing the voices of the writers to shine through. The diversity within Hispanic Jewish communities is emphasized; we hear about families of Polish, Hungarian and Syrian backgrounds, and the journeys of converts. Warm feelings toward “home”, in Mexico, Argentina and Cuba, are expressed, but the writers are all making lives in the United States.

While the tone of most of the memoirs is gentle, there are chilling moments. A family in the United States continues to light the menorah in the back window, as they did in Mexico, to hide their Jewishness from the neighbours. Life in Argentina under the military government is troubled.

Altogether, del Campo creates lovely word pictures, with moments of passion and intensity.

The show offers a wonderful opportunity to see The Mariachi Ghost, the Winnipeg Mexican band, in a small venue, up close. You can see the eerie makeup, the black mariachi suits decorated with white, and the marvellous expressiveness of these performers. The lead singer Jorge Requena Ramos has a wide range vocally and emotionally, the backup vocals are terrific, and every instrument, including trumpet and the guitar-shaped vozarrona and jarana, is played with passion and joy.

In an inspired move, director Ari Weinberg encouraged vocalist Ramos to tell personal stories and Latin American narratives. His introductions, always heartfelt and often funny, are a fascinating aspect of the evening.

There are intricate connections between the songs and the memoirs. A Mexican father in one story listens to Frank Sinatra records; the band plays a lush version of My Way in Spanish. A parent is lost in another story; the singers offer, in English, a pain-filled song of loss. Whether the song deals with a difficult subject or a joyful one, the result is always exuberant.

This is Artistic Director Ari Weinberg's last show with WJT before he heads off for a new job at the Stratford Festival. He'll be missed! Fortunately, he has planned the 2022/2023 WJT season. Tickets are on sale now.?

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.