New musical aims to reclaim the story of the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz

Judy Cantor-Navas in Billboard:

New Celia Cruz Musical Reclaims Story of the Great Cuban Singer

Omer Pardillo-Cid, Celia Cruz’s former manager and the executor of her estate, was unimpressed with the way the late Cuban icon had been presented in productions based on her life, particularly a 2015 bio-series produced in Colombia and broadcast on Telemundo, which he says took considerable liberties with the facts.

Now, Pardillo, who describes Cruz as “a black woman, who was poor, who left Cuba and conquered the world,” is bringing the beloved singer’s official story to the stage. Celia Cruz, The Musical, which previewed for one night in Miami last December, will have its international premiere at the Starlite Festival in Marbella, Spain on Aug. 18. More dates for the show’s anticipated tour are expected to be announced soon.

“Celia was the Lady Gaga of her time,” Pardillo says during a recent interview in a renovated warehouse in Miami that he is in the process of converting into a private museum. A small table and the chairs we are sitting on comprise the modest dining set that Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, bought for their first New York apartment after leaving Cuba for good in 1959. The room is stuffed with the dresses Cruz wore onstage, pairs of shoes and some of her wigs, and adorned with award statuettes, tour posters and photos of the Cuban music and salsa legend.

“My purpose is to keep Celia’s legacy alive,” Pardillo says, adding that Cruz facilitated his work by keeping virtually every artefact and memento of her career. “If you’re looking for the airline ticket from the Fania All-Stars’ trip to Africa in 1974, I have it,” he says, referring to the pioneering salsa collective’s historic concert in Zaire that coincided with George Foreman and Muhammad Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle” fight.

The new musical, which Pardillo ensures will tell the true story of Cruz’s life, will recreate Cruz’s final concert before her death in 2003, flashing back to episodes cued by well-known songs, from “Quimbara” to “La Negra Tiene Tumbao.” Aymée Nuviola played Cruz in the Telemundo series; Xiomara Laugart took on the challenge of portraying the world’s best-know Latin female singer in a previous 2007 musical that premiered Off-Broadway and toured the U.S. and South America.

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1 thought on “New musical aims to reclaim the story of the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz”

  1. Celia was the Lady Gaga of her time? Really? Coulda fooled me. Sheesh.

    As for Lucrecia, she sings well enough, but when it comes to moving, she has issues.

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