Ghost Waltz Review – A Spiritual Legacy

Eduardo Robledo and Questzal Guerrero in GHOST WALTZ - Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography
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Penned by Oliver Mayer, GHOST WALTZ makes its 2024 world premiere at the Latino Theater Company. An innovative and daring new play with music, GHOST WALTZ was commissioned by the Latino Theater Company and developed in the company’s “Circle of Imaginistas” playwriting group. This is an original story about indigenous Mexican musician Juventino Rosa – one of Mexico’s most significant classical composers – and recounts Rosas’s life from his father’s early death to his friendship with ragtime genius Scott Joplin – to his early death. The standing of an indigenous composer of his time is reflected in Rosas’s most famous work, “Sobre las Olas (Over the Waves),” which was ultimately falsely attributed to Austrian Johann Strauss. The play explores the lives of people of color during the Americas of the late nineteenth century – and their ghost-like impact on our own lives today.

Nathalie Pena-Comas, Castulo Guerra, and Quetzal Guerrero – Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography

The place is primarily Mexico, and the time is the last decades of the nineteenth century. Young Juventino Rosas (Quetzal Guerrero) has come to Mexico City from his mountainous tribal home with his father (Eduardo Robledo) so that the two can earn some money as street musicians. His father’s death leaves him at loose ends until fate steps in. The eager violinist attracts the notice of teachers at the Conservatory, and he gets the chance of a lifetime: training in classical music and composition. But the young genius soon realizes that his opportunities are limited, and so he joins the military and ends up playing in the military band. His musical skills make it possible for him to tour the U.S., and he has the unheard-of opportunity for a man with his background to see Chicago and New Orleans, where music draws him into the orbit of Scott Joplin (Ric’key Pageot). But a trip to Cuba proves his undoing. Rosas contracts spinal meningitis and dies at the age of 26 – years before his extraordinary talents have had time to mature and bring him fame and/or fortune. And maybe before bringing him the love of the Nightingale (Nathalie Pena-Comas).

Ariel Brown, Quetzal Guerrero, and Ric’key Pageot – Photo by Grettel Curtes Photography

Alberto Barboza does an excellent job of bringing Rosas’ story to life. He is ably assisted by an excellent cast of supermusicians, each with multiple talents including singing, dancing, and playing one or more musical instruments. Kudos to the group of performers, as well as to the production team. The Latino Theater Company’s space has been completely refurbished with stunning results. Into this lovely venue step Emily Anne MacDonald and Cameron Jaye Mock (scenic, costume, and projection design), Nathan Davis (sound design), Johnny Garofalo (lighting design), and Giovanni Ortega (choreography). BTW, Guerrero’s violin strains and Pena-Comas’ lilting arias will reach out and grab each audience member’s heart. There is certainly no shortage of talent in GHOST WALTZ.

Quetzal Guerrero, Nathalie Pena-Comas, and Ric’key Pageot – Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography

GHOST WALTZ will appeal to a broad audience, including history buffs, lovers of all forms of music, and especially people fascinated by little-known history. This “rags-to-riches” tale doesn’t quite make it to the “riches” part, but it does demonstrate what talent, skill, persistence, and lots of luck can accomplish.

Ric’key and Aniel Brown – Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography

GHOST WALTZ runs through June 2, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 4 p.m. on Sundays. The Los Angeles Theatre Center is located at 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Tickets range from $10 to $48 (students, seniors, veterans, and LAUSD teachers $20; all Thursday night performances $10). For information and reservations, call 213-489-0994 or go online.


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