By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
It was the “GOOOOAAAAL!” heard around the world, followed by an “OLE!” that continues to resound in the ears, minds and hearts many Latin-Americans for whom Spain is considered “La Madre Patria.” The World Cup victory marked the culmination of a month-long celebration of the ethnic diversity so prevalent in Miami. This week in particular showcased such diversity with the presentation of Babalu at the Adrienne Arsht Center and the opening of the Drexel Irish Pub, located on Espanola Way, which, interestingly opened on Bastille Day! Talk about a “cultural kaleidoscope.”
Babalu: We’re “HOME!”
One of the highlights of the week was Babalú – A Tribute to the Music of Desi Arnaz, at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, created by and starring Arnaz’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz; son, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Broadway heavyweights: Raúl Esparza and Valarie Pettiford.
The evening proved to be nostalgic for this writer, not only because of my Cuban heritage but more-so because I grew up watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, which became an integral part of my childhood. What better way to learn about friendship, marriage and the art of getting your way? So for me, Babalu was two hours of musical, nostalgic bliss, throughout which Lucie Arnaz poignantly and comically shared the history of the music made famous in the U.S. by her father. From the opening number, Arnaz demonstrated the same passion that drove her father, sharing the barriers he conquered while entertaining the heck out of us.
Four-time Grammy nominee, Raul Esparza, who brilliantly portrayed Desi Arnaz in the Broadway show, as well as the show at the Arsht Center wowed the audience with his renditions of Babalu, Cuban Pete and, our favorite, Granada. Born and raised in Miami, Esparza shared anecdotes of his upbringing, crediting his mother and grandmother for his love of music and dancing ability, laughing as he recounted the dance lessons in the Florida Room of his Kendall home and the purchase of his first guitar at the Tropical Flea Market.
A high point came when Esparza and Valarie Pettiford performed an unbearably sexy (PG-13) duet in which he sang Amor to her `Bésame Mucho. Pettiford’s performance of Perhaps/Quizas, sung almost in a whisper was also stunning.
Lucie Arnaz’s musical director, pianist-arranger Ron Abel led the 15-piece orchestra, as Desi Arnaz Jr. played various instruments including different sets of bongos and drums, dressed in a casual navy polo and baseball cap, in stark contrast to the white dinner jackets worn by his band mates, the typical attire of his late father. Arnaz did not approach the front of the stage once, even to take a bow at the end of the show.
Following the performance, VIPs were treated to a cast party in a rehearsal room that had been transformed to resemble the Tropicana from I Love Lucy, complete with an orchestra playing Latin music, a slide show depicting I Love Lucy episodes, and delicious Cuban-inspired treats created by Barton G., including a variation on a favorite staple: a crostini topped with creamed goat cheese and guava- a favorite “merienda” (snack) responsible, in part, for shaping the well-rounded, Cuban “personalities” for which Cuban women are well-known.
As we’ve seen throughout our travels, and lately on T.V. the Spanish love to party! Their penchant for the fun and liquid is rivaled by the Irish, who are among the friendliest and most fun people we’ve ever come across. Well it seems that we are in luck, as Spain and Ireland have joined forces to bring a new bar to Espanola way, Drexel Irish Pub. V & E restaurant group along with co-owner Alejandro Ferllen celebrated the opening of the pub with a huge bash, complete with a kilt-clad team of servers. Miami’s VIPs were on the scene, including nightlife impresario Cesar Sotomayor, Vero Water CEO Joshua Kunis and wife Havi, Diesel USA Inc.’s Brandon Berrett, pianist Julian de la Chica and nearly 200 more guest partied at the fun space throughout the evening, enjoying tastes of executive chef Alex Martinez’s menu. Drexel promises to deliver St. Patty’s style fun every day, with live music and lots of imbibing into the early morning hours.
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