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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly..

It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..

As Art Week approaches, Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater is getting ready to add its distinctive voice, rehearsing for the upcoming performance of “Flowers” at the C..

Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..

Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..

It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..

It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..

A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”­—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..

When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..

Natalia Lafourcade Taps Latin American Muses for Her Latest Musical Journey

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Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade is as tiny as a house sparrow, with a voice as clean and pure as a bell. These delicate qualities belie a fierce inner strength and a steely artistic will. As an artist, she is flexible, shaping herself anew to fit the spirit and the times, but sturdy against the fickle, shifting winds of easy fashion. Miami audiences who haven’t already discovered her have the chance to do so for themselves when she plays the historic Olympia Theater this Friday.

Perhaps Lafourcade’s internal fortitude is a product of experience. This 33-year-old performer has been in the music business for nearly two decades. As a 14-year-old, Lafourcade sang with an all-girl bubble-gum pop group called Twist. Later, in 2002, a video for her first solo album casts her as a Bjork-like renegade in round, googly-eyed glasses and a pink quinceañera dress that looks like it came straight from wardrobe for the telenovela “Betty La Fea.” Just two years ago, she struck musical gold as a lovelorn indie rocker; her platinum-selling sensation, Hasta la Raíz, which traces the trajectory of a good love gone bad, garnered five Latin Grammys (she later went on to tie with Pitbull for a regular Grammy for best Latin rock, urban or alternative album). As for many a female pop idol, from Madonna to Shakira to Miley Cyrus, Lafourcade’s route to self-discovery has been a long and winding road.

Her latest release, a two-disc opus entitled Musas, seems at once a radical departure and a natural next step for her. If her previous album centered on the root of a love that digs deep into the soul only to be torn out, this new album is more outward bound, offering the hope of a fresh start. To find it, she goes back to the roots of Latin American popular music, mining the Golden Age that was the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. She and her collaborators have placed these treasures in simple settings that allow them to glow with a wild beauty that has been stripped of pretense.

As she set about to explore this music, Lafourcade found she needed experienced guides. She approached Los Macorinos, the guitar duo of Miguel Peña and Juan Carlos Allende, who accompanied the legendary Chavela Vargas throughout the last 10 years of her career. “When I heard them playing, I fell in love,” Lafourcade said simply. As they worked together, the two men, who are both some 40 years her senior, taught her a deeper way of paying attention: “I had to learn about patience, to let the music get its own spirit and voice.”

Over a year-long period the trio bonded over dinners at Lafourcade’s home, with no real plan for an album in mind: “I was just trying to get closer to the music that I love and to make this project. But I wasn’t really thinking about putting it out,” she said. “It was beautiful because we were rehearsing a lot and we were playing a lot and that gave me the chance to connect to the meaning of the lyrics and the music and the harmonies and the rhythms.” They narrowed down a list of some 100 songs to just the handful that Lafourcade felt would resonate most with her voice and her style.

When Lafourcade’s label, Sony, eventually heard the work, they decided it would make a fitting follow-up for the wildly popular Hasta la Raíz album. By today’s standards, the new work would be a minimalist endeavor: “The rules for the project that I set were that we were going to record with acoustic instruments,” said Lafourcade. “I just wanted acoustical guitars, el cuatro venezolano, jaranas, viruela—all traditional instruments.” Fittingly, they recorded these down-to-earth songs the old-fashioned way, playing full takes acoustically together in a room until the sound, with its perfect imperfections, was what they wanted.

One of the cuts on Musas is a duet of the torch song “Tú Me Acostumbraste” with the inimitable Omara Portuondo, the 86-year-old Cuban chanteuse of Buena Vista Social Club fame.In a video released with the album, you can watch as Lafourcade wraps her voice around Portuondo’s deep and smoky singing in a musical gesture as tender as when she lies down on a couch beside the older woman and gently caresses her head.

Indeed, all of the new videos for Musas demonstrate what masters of image and mood are Lafourcade and her team. The storyline of the vignettes that surround the songs are straightforward: A dance party where each of your hipster friends is more interesting-looking and talented than the next; a drown-your-sorrows-in-tequila scene in which you pour your heart out to two of the greatest acoustic guitarists on the planet. The colors are luscious and rich, the production values are stellar, the characters intriguing. But it is the music itself, a steeped-in-nostalgia yet somehow totally new sound that Lafourcade and her group have created that draws you in and keeps bringing you back.

If you go

What: Natalia Lafourcade, Musas Tour

Where: Olympia Theater, 174 East Flagler St., Miami

When: 8:00 p.m. Friday, June 16

Info: Tickets $35 - $55; olympiatheater.org, (305) 374-2444

 


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