The music entices, but the story is corny in Sombras Tango Cabaret | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

The music entices, but the story is corny in Sombras Tango Cabaret

Tango 21 Dance Theater's cabaret show lacks narrative sophistication.



Originating on the streets of Argentina, filtered through European high society, blending African rhythms and immigrant spirit, tango, like a fine perfume, marries sophistication with an undertone of flesh. But if your primary association with tango is corniness, Sombras Tango Cabaret, created and directed by Jorge Niedas and Liz Sung for Tango 21 Dance Theater, with choreography by Niedas and writing by Sung, brings it to another level. You won't see roses clenched in anyone's teeth, but this pastiche of Cabaret and every summer stock show there ever was makes for a mostly cringeworthy evening.

The primary character is cabaret host Fantastik Frank (Trent Oldham), who narrates the evening in a mid-Atlantic accent, just one piece of artifice in his bleached-blond, red-sequined, high-heeled, fishnetted, half-painted ensemble that becomes deeply annoying over the course of the evening. Frank always knew he was "flamboyant" (he says), so he ran away with a Parisian tango company. His chosen family accepts him for who he is, but does he accept himself, he wonders, gazing into a lighted mirror.

The high point of the evening is a lovely barefoot dance to Astor Piazzolla's "Tzigane Tango" by Valentina Muñoz and Jonathan Ropiequet, who incorporate a length of lamé into their duet with grace and ease, almost creating the illusion of floating and twining on aerial silks. Live music by Bob Solone, including some original compositions, is delightful. And KT McCammond, in the role of Frank's long-estranged mother, belts her number with a surety that belies far better experiences.  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →