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Reviewed: La Bamba! A Musical World premiere at Curve

An explosive fiesta!

La Bamba!  A musical poster, with lead Ines Fernandez, Pacha Kovalev and Siva Kaneswaran surrounded by pink and purple lights

Curve got loud this week with its run of La Bamba: A Musical!


This explosive jukebox musical opened at Leicester's Curve theatre and will tour the UK until November.

A packed-out show, La Bamba! drew in Strictly Come Dancing fans to see champion Pasha Kovalev in the role of Ricardo, and the choreography of Graziano Di Prima, Erica Da Silva and Giada Lini. Siva Kaneswaran from boyband The Wanted played the role of Mateo, who also drew in the crowds.

“Am I missing something?” I thought as I spotted several girls in the interval dressed a lot like the show’s lead, rising star Sofia Martinez (Inês Fernandez). Being a brand-new production, I hadn’t expected people to seem so at home with it. Costumes were up to date with current fashion trends (and brilliantly vibrant), so we put it down to coincidence. However, there seemed to be a heated buzz throughout the night as though this audience was seeing a show they already loved.


Whether that's true not, it turns out La Bamba! is an incredibly important production.


This sizzling spectacle opens with a fiery take on ‘Vivir Mi Vida’ performed by Fernandez with the entire cast blazing in at the chorus and group choreography to set alight a desire to learn how to dance Latin style.

Featuring anthems from Marc Anthony, Shakira, Camila Cabello, Ricky Martin, J-Lo and many more, La Bamba! makes you want to move and add every song to your playlist for the drive home. We left this uplifting musical singing “Para bailar La Bamba… Por ti seré, por ti seré, por ti seré” (the only words we knew) on repeat.

It’s a showcase of the Latin American experience with dance after dance and song after song, all strung together by a storyline honouring the past, present, and future of Latino culture.


Star performances

With one of the shortest biographies listed in the beautiful souvenir programme, Fernandez is a rising star. Charm and charisma mixed with the most rich and piercingly gorgeous vocals makes you want to know more about the star. See her Instagram page to relive her striking rendition of Vivir La Vida!

Stefani Ariza makes her West End debut as Sofia’s mother, Elena. She’s the fierce matriarch with a heart of gold. Her breathtaking performance is one we’ll remember, and we shall certainly be looking out for her in the West End.

The story

La Bamba! tells the heartwarming story of Sofia, a small-town girl from Los Angeles on her journey to stardom. Her dream of becoming a superstar began when her father Ricardo handed her a guitar. Sofia, inspired by her musical heroes, will discover, with the help of her family and best friend Mateo, that while talent makes you a star, fate can make you a legend.

Written by Paul Morrissey, La Bamba! Begins sets the scene with a telling of the tragic 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Latino Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and ‘Big Bopper’ Richardson. Sofia, who also acts as the show’s narrator, wants to finish the tour that Valens never got to see out for himself by playing at The Armoury.

As Sofia rises to fame, she loses her parts of herself in a bid to become what America wants her to be: Sophie Martins. This was heartbreakingly implied when Sofia attempts to play guitar while her younger self (Lia Alqadhi) sits across from her playing like it's her mother tongue.

Messages

The theme of the show centres around butterflies (mariposas) and waiting for the day you can find your way out of your cocoon.


While deeper messages resonate with audiences through the coronavirus pandemic and Donald Trump’s treatment of Mexicans, La Bamba! only touches upon these recent events.

I’ve read reviews that say the show needs to go deeper. Whereas I believe this show will act as a stepping stone for the world to come to a deeper understanding of the anti-Latino discrimination in America.

Drawing audiences in with explosive singing and dancing and respect for the Latino culture, the show's messages are clear enough to inspire others to go away and learn more.

Overall, this political musical teaches you to be true to yourself, embrace your culture, embrace who you are, what you love, and what you stand for.

La Bamba! Is showing at Curve until Saturday, August 5 and starts its UK tour from August 8 until November 25.

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