Some people do not think dreams of making it big in Hollywood or on Broadway are realistic. If a friend tells their best buddy they want to be the next Marlon Brando, the comrade will likely say “good luck with that.” Still, there are those who cling desperately to the idea there is a way to make lifelong success in showbiz a reality.
The Old Globe’s new play “Somewhere,” set in 1959, is about the Candelarias, a Puerto Rican family that entertains hopes and fantasies while living in a tenement that is about to be torn down to build Lincoln Center.
Francisco (Juan Javier Cardenas) thinks he has a shot at becoming a legendary actor. His younger sister, Rebecca (Benita Robledo), wants to be a professional dancer. Their mother Inez (Tony Award-winner Priscilla Lopez) believes they can achieve their dreams, but worries her other son Alejandro (Jon Rua), the one she considers the most talented, has lost complete faith in himself.
“Somewhere” is a domestic drama intercut with some amazing dance sequences. Choreographer Greg Graham stages several spectacular scenes, including a climactic number toward the end of the second act that stands out as an incredible dance of self-realization for one of the main characters.
The cast can act and dance, a very tough combination of which masters are exceedingly rare these days. The four leads are all fantastic in their parts, and although Lopez deserves recognition for her powerful performance, everyone is believable. Special credit should be given to Leo Ash Evens as Jamie MacRae, a successful acquaintance of the “retired” dancer, Alejandro. His encounters with Alejandro feel authentic. Anyone who has an extensive history with a close ally will be able to relate to their conversations about the past, present and future.
While “Somewhere” is intended for a mass audience, theater and film geeks will be in awe of references made throughout the production. Famous artists mentioned include the amazingly talented composer Leonard Bernstein, iconic stage actress Ethel Merman, triple-threat extraordinaire Chita Rivera and legendary “West Side Story” director Jerome Robbins.
“Somewhere” starts out strong and even a little bit magical in the love it has for popular storytelling of the time period. Surprisingly, Act II is even better.
At this point, after the Candelarias move to a housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y., Matthew Lopez’s writing becomes deeper, and the conflicts that affect Alejandro become achingly alarming. There is a realization that he is not just going through a moody rough patch. It would not be surprising if audience members fear Alejandro is a lost cause who may never overcome his dark outlook on the life he has made for himself.
“Somewhere” examines the pursuit of stardom in full detail. The Candelarias are a metaphorical representation of the negative and positive consequences associated with
fulfilling aspirations. Though Alejandro is symbolic of the problems adults face when not receiving deserved recognition, Francisco, Inez and Rebecca are much more hopeful human beings who believe in the power of serendipity combined with hard work.
The skillful direction of Giovanna Sardell helps make “Somewhere” a beautiful play with a heartfelt message. If handled with care on the road to the “Great White Way,” it could have a very bright future.
Tickets and information about “Somewhere” can be found at theoldglobe.org.