Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review: 'Mi Casa Tu Casa' a musical delight at Luna Stage

The Luna Stage in West Orange is repeating this Christmas season the joyous bi-lingual musical production "Mi Casa Tu Casa" ("From My House to Your House") they premiered last year. Have no fear, the bi-lingual format works beautifully. "Mi Casa Tu Casa" is a 75 minute explosion of happy exuberance from a talented cast of seven.

Five are members of the Mi Casa Band, all returning from last year's production. They include two co-creators - Michael Aquino on electric guitar and Deivis "Deivito" Garcia playing a classical guitar; Chris Blanco on percussion, Jane Keitel on accordion and glockenspiel, and Cindi Merklee on bass guitar, plus two storytellers, Jennica Carmona and Chris Kent.

The program is divided into nine segments that includes folktales such as "Firebird” and "The Vain Little Mouse," brief poetry by Pablo Neruda (Remember "Il Postino?") touching and fun memories of childhood Christmas by the cast and their families, "T'was The Night Before Christmas," "Silent Night," and the brightest, happiest hispanic music this side of Spanish Harlem, e.g. "La Bamba" and "Cielito Lindo."

 Jennica Carmona
The two storytellers, new this season, Jennica Carmona and Chris Kent are two fine young talents with perpetual smiles. They sing and dance nicely in addition to their excellent storytelling skills. There is no mistaking that they are having as much fun as the audience. Our favorite retelling was Kent's "El Tambor" with assistance from percussionist Chris Blanco as a dog...who excels on the drum (what else did you expect?). Carmona with her radiant personality was fine in each skit with "The Firebird" a particular standout.

 Directing the colorful fiesta is Jane Mandel, the Luna Stage's Artistic Director, a New Jersey theatre treasure. She is ably assisted by Deborah Caney costume design, Michael Hochman lighting design, Steve Brown sound engineer, Liz Cesario production manager and Christina Balkovic stage manager. The four creators of "Mi Casa, Tu Casa" are Michael Aquino, Deivis Garcia, Dania Ramos and Jane Mandel.

This is pure, unadulterated all-family entertainment. During many of the music numbers the audience, particularly the junior members, are encouraged to join the cast on the stage floor.

 "Mi Casa, Tu Casa" is a perfect holiday treat for all members of the family. A nice change of pace from the more traditional Christmas/Holiday fare widely available. At the performance I attended today it was very special to see the look of wonderment in the eyes of the children.

The combination of the colorful set, costumes, dancing, singing and fabulous infectious music makes for a most enjoyable theatre experience.

 "Mi Casa, Tu Casa' plays Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through December 16th.

Tickets are only $10 for children under 17 and $20 for adults. They can be purchased online, at the door, by phone (973) 395-5551, and in person during our daytime box office hours (Tues-Fri 10 a.m.-3 p.m.).

The Luna Stage is at 555 Valley Road in West Orange, a short distance from Route 280. Ample free parking is available and numerous restaurants are just a short stroll away.

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