Asolo Rep theatergoers remembering Ana Isabelle’s powerful 2017 performance in the lead role of Evita will be happy to know the singer and actress will be back on stage later this month at the company’s outdoor terrace stage and a concert production with some of her favorite Latin plays and Broadway music.
It is also directed once again by Josh Rhodes, who did this job for Evita. They are accompanied on stage by Evita colleagues Justin Gregory Lopez (Che) and the extraordinary tango dancers Guadalupe Garcia and Junior Cervila.
The Show, Ana Isabelle & Friends in Concert: Stand Back, Sarasota! is a by-product of the coronavirus pandemic – what else? Isabelle, who was slated to make her Broadway debut in 2020 and see her long-late Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story (now in December), saw her plans for the Great White Way ruined. Fortunately, the Asolo’s producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards reached out to her to see if she might be interested in doing a performance here.
“We started talking about different ideas and whether I should bring my team from Puerto Rico [where she was born]”Says Isabelle.” I thought we should bring them instead [music director] Sinai Tabak and Josh and create something that fits what I’m doing right now. “
Isabelle, who is also a recording artist, had worked in musicals and built her acting career. She was rehearsing the first production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, which was taking place in Puerto Rico when Covid shut down. “My life has changed completely,” she says. “My parents didn’t want me to return to New York. At first I worked on self-care; then I felt like I had to do a little more. “She ended up hosting an entertainment show on a television station there while she was still writing music.
For director-choreographer Rhodes, the shutdown came while working in Sarasota on the Knoxville world premiere, which was postponed. “As a director, I kept working with writers on scripts, but then it felt so silly to do that without knowing when to do it. It was wonderful when Michael called, ”he says.
In the end, says Rhodes, the upcoming concert “isn’t a show with a narrative. It has four stars and you will go away to meet these four incredible talents. It will be wonderful for the audience to see who Ana is as a person and what she loves. “
“We have an entire medley dedicated to Broadway,” says Isabelle. “There’s also a Latin American medley and some surprises. I hope Sarasota will enjoy it as much as we enjoy working on it. “
Safe distancing can come with some staging challenges, according to Rhodes. Fortunately, the tango couple – Garcia and Cervila – are married so they can connect with all of the physicality and sensuality that tango requires.
Overall, Isabelle says: “We only appreciate that we can have an audience. I’ll say forgive me if I’m too energetic! I will give everything. “
The preview for Ana Isabelle & Friends begins on April 15th with the official run from April 17th to 24th. More information is available at asolorep.org.