Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
A Crossing: A Dance Musical
Also see Zander's review of Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical
While the running time is 85 minutes, A Crossing has both depth and scope as one follows a group of immigrants as they try to find a better life and world by crossing the Mexican border into the United States. As BSC Artistic Director Julianne Boyd explains, director/choreographer Joshua Bergasse suggested the idea to her six years ago. The evolution has been lengthy and the result exultant. At times, the presentation brings to mind Fiddler on the Roof. The parallel between old world Jews wandering through Russia/Poland as they searched for stability and twenty-first century migrants seeking security and safety is not a stretch. It was quite thrilling to sit in a Pittsfield, Massachusetts, theater, several rows from a group of exuberantly talented actors of Latin lineage as they threw their bodies, minds, and creative spirits into performance.
Alberto Lopez, co-choreographer for the musical, has been the artistic leader of Calpulli, a dance group which emphasizes community through its imaginative process. Joshua Bergasse's influence is familiar to Barrington Stage audiences, where he choreographed The Pirates of Penzance, On the Town, West Side Story, and more. Bergasse has received accolades for his work on Broadway and was awarded an Emmy Award as he choreographed television's "Smash." Zoe Sarnak has written many original songs for A Crossing and George Sáenz provides traditional Mexican folk song arrangements and additional score. Rick Hip-Flores is a fine musical supervisor and Jeffrey Campos an equally skilled musical director. Mark St. Germain, who penned the impressive Eleanor (part of the recent BSC summer season), wrote the story. St. Germain is also known for Freud's Last Session, Becoming Dr. Ruth, Dancing Lessons, and other excellent plays. For the current occasion, the wordsmith was not asked to delve into his craft but to add story which facilitates successful dance and music.
Beowulf Boritt's scenic design features a malleable backdrop. At first, simulated water, as in a river, flows. Downstage, a small structure evocative of the Statue of Liberty, even if constructed out of objects, sits atop a crate. Soon after the play begins, everyone participates in "Invisible Line." Each character is desperate enough to trek through deserts or mountains or caves in order to cross over.
Sol (Andres Quintero) and Luna (Stefanie Renee Salyers) tell the story through narrative song. We learn of ancestors and the present dayfor example, midway through the performance, everyone participates in "The Climb." Martin (Justin Gregory Lopez) is a widower and he plays harmonica. Giselle (Ashley Pérez Flanagan) has evidently lost her parents who were political activists and she is 17 years old. Karina (Aline Mayagoitia) is pregnant. Each step a character takes is treacherous. Boritt has added configurations or obstacles of various sizes, represented by hard materials such as wood or cork board, which the actors manipulate.
In all, A Crossing offers fervent and profound insight into an analogous plight we all now witness each day, through the media, at America's southern border. The flow of humanity and the heartbreak so many immigrants endure cannot be disregarded. Barrington Stage, at this moment in time, is mounting a sensitive and simultaneously vivacious dance musical which deserves to find further life after its current run. It's a great whoosh of deeply realized musical drama. The graceful and sometimes gymnastic movement is continuous. A Crossing, during its opening moments, bears witness, well over a century ago, to Ellis Island. Near the show's ending, Martin, Karina and Giselle combine on "Tomorrow Comes." The song's last words: "'Cause tomorrow will come and we will get through it. When tomorrow comes, with everything it brings, tomorrow comes. Start imagining."
A Crossing runs through October 16, 2021, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For tickets and information, call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.