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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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Valentino - The Musical

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 26, 2003
New York, NY

About the Author:

Valentino - The Musical


Hollywoodland Presents
Valentino - The Musical
at the
American Theatre of Actors
314 West 54th Street
In performance through May 18, 2003
SmartTix 212.206.1515

Story, Book, and Lyrics by Charles Mandracchia and Francesca Digiosa
Music by Charles Mandracchia
Co-Directed by Francesca Digiosa & Charles Mandracchia
Choreography by Genevieve Cleary
Vocal Director, Jonah Speidel
Production Design/Costumes by Michael Butler
Lighting Design by Robert Cangemi
Sound Design by Jared Coseglia
Casting, Hollywoodland
Musical Director, Ryan Hunt
Tango, Waltz, Forever and Tap Dance Choreography by Yoshi Yano
Starring Robert Lewandowski as Valentino
and Kelly Cooper as Natacha
See www.valentinothemusical.com for entire cast

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 26, 2003

On April 19, 2003, all the sets and costumes that had been prepared for six months for this production were destroyed in a fire in an upstate warehouse. The producers managed to restage this production in two days and did a remarkable job in creating new, elegant costumes and makeshift sets, such as Valentino's tent. Working backwards, this is a provocative creation by Mandracchia and Digiosa that implies that Valentino was poisoned by a Hollywood film company, in order to collect his life insurance policy. This may be far-fetched, but Mandracchia has been researching Valentino's life for many years and has read secret archives and documents. There is pathos and poignancy in this production, with the sense of an immigrant's wild ascent and descent, Hollywood-style, from poverty in Italy to wealth in America.

Mandracchia and Digiosa set the early scenes in the streets of Italy, with a mother who begs her son to return to see her some day, when he becomes rich and famous. Valentino's first job is as a dance partner in a Nightclub, with wealthy ladies and underground characters. Valentino removes his ragged clothes and dons a coat and tails. Valentino The Musical includes many, very well choreographed scenes, with groupings of characters appearing to move as if they were onstage at the ballet. Ms. Cleary, the Choreographer, is brilliant. She has an eye for staging and spacing, so that the actors create a lovely visual effect, as they sway and huddle, reach and lunge, as if dance were a constant element in all the movement onstage.

Valentino proceeds to take a role in silent film, and in Yano's choreographed Tango scene, in wide-brimmed and a toreador-type costume, although not Argentine Tango, is a ballroom-style American Tango and very effectively passionate and stylized. Lewandowski is a good Valentino, with dance techniques and an engaging quality. He could definitely improve his Italian accent. Since dialect is so critical in this production, I would recommend more practice in essential linguistics for a few of the characters. In fact, Piper Pack, as Mamma, sings her heavenly love song to her son, after death, without the earlier Italian accent, as if death removes ethnicity.

Kelly Cooper as Natacha, Valentino's love of his life, is superb. Her dance scenes, vocal qualities, and charisma are all intact. The passionate scenes between the two are evocative and elegant, despite the allusions to homosexuality of both characters. (Valentino is forced to win a boxing match to prove his masculinity). Ms. Cooper has star quality and is an actress to watch. In fact, there were many talented actors, dancers, singers, and backstage directors and designers in Valentino The Musical. The Hollywood scenes, with the Arabian tent, pillows, love scenes, cameramen, producers, directors, and stagehands were extremely well conceived. The large group dance routines, especially the tap (choreographed by Yoshi Yano) and the show girl creations (choreographed by Genevieve Cleary) were so enjoyable!

There was innocence and ingenuity to this production. Not only was this a "show that must go on", despite the loss of programs, costumes and sets, but this was a tale of unrequited love, between Valentino and Natacha, and between Valentino and the moguls in Hollywood, who ruined the partnership and trust between the star-crossed lovers, for greed and power. The scenes of Valentino's fans, begging to see their idol, crying for their fantasy lover, were juxtaposed against the scenes of Valentino dying, while Natacha sang alone, high on a raised platform. The American Theatre of Actors is actually housed in a Courthouse, next to a police station. The Theatre has a raised stage and an interesting visual effect, as characters can move from level to level, along the sides of the theatre and along the sightlines of the front stage. This was a good location for this production.

I wish this energetic and deserving company of actors and dancers, designers and directors, choreographers and writers the very best success in achieving their dream of mounting this show on Broadway. Of course, there will be a difference, with the complete costumes and sets, programs and props. I would highly recommend tightening and shortening the show, which lasted over two and one-half hours. I would also recommend refining the sound system, as it was difficult to hear the songs from levels above the stage. However, Charles Mandracchia, Francesca Digiosa, Genevieve Cleary, Yoshi Yano, and Michael Butler all deserve kudos for their valiant and vigorous efforts to carry on, in spite of enormous obstacles, and to entertain the audience with a wonderful tale of a Hollywood icon, with lovely costumes and superb dance routines.

Try to catch this show! It's an inspiration.

Valentino - The Musical
Photo courtesy of Charles Mandracchia

Valentino - The Musical
Photo courtesy of Charles Mandracchia

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