See it if
you like Salsa & Latin music. Richer and funnier if you're Latino or know Spanish but it's not necessary for this fun, joyously performed show.
Don't See it if
you dislike Salsa, Latin music, Puerto Rican culture, New York in the 70's or the rare chance of seeing this fun and hugely talented cast and amazing band.
A show celebrating the rich history of NYC's el Barrio and the Salsa music that originated there is long overdue, as is note of the Puerto Rican contribution to New York’s music and culture; and while this show may not be the ultimate crossover vehicle, it’s a terrific start.
Both a jukebox musical and warm family drama that showcases the talents of its remarkable cast, I Like It Like That certainly plays to its base, but reaches out to include all and transcends language with its universal warmth.
Although the show's thin book may seem to have the heft and depth of an episode of The Jeffersons set to music, with many at times similar feel-good family characters and moments, there’s a darker and political undertone here. New York in the 1970’s was a very different and dangerous place than its present Disney, gentrified version, large sections of the city neglected and ignored by its government, as were its minorities.
A different show might have dealt with those issues head-on, but here that history is simply the factual backdrop that drives the plot, showcasing instead the sort of music that for some made living through that period bearable, possible, and often fun.
With the Fania label turning out the records of Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Pacheco, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Larry Harlow and the rest of the Fania All-Stars, a danceable history began that’s still relevant, still infectious and still great fun. The Mambo might have been Cuba, but Salsa was definitely New York.
Veteran salsa singer Tito Nieves does well in his theatrical debut as the family patriarch, a solid presence whose strong voice fills and engages the house, and Angel López has several increasingly endearing and complicated vocal turns, but it's the women that steal and shine here.
Comedian Rosemary Almonte, is the quintessential Tita, whose very funny singing and dancing is a highpoint; the striking Caridad de la Luz is the political older sister whose remarkable acting and alto voice could lead any movement; understudy Sofia Klimovsky as the younger sister Paula embodied the gawky energy and joy of a 16 year old segueing into young womanhood; and the lovely Chachi Del Valle amazes as the sultry sexy girlfriend; the typically nosy aged aunt; and a hilarious, over-the-top but credible interpretation of the singer La Lupe, performed with a voice and incredible energy that needs to be seen.
I Like It Like That isn't a deep theatrical event, by any means, but it's a very fun evening that transcends language and would make even the stiffest among us want to dance; catch it while you can.