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Review: El Grande De Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

An evening of awkward, hilarious glory

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)
Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

Welcome to a family-owned Mexican nightclub where tonight, Coca-Cola flows as freely as hope. Thanks to a slew of international stars, the family patriarch has convinced the local bottling plant to underwrite his special cabaret, in exchange for copious product placement. Only problem is, the international stars aren't coming. With paying customers in the house, the Hernandez family has no choice but to stage the show themselves. El Grande de Coca-Cola is 80 minutes of awkward, hilarious glory, with a cast as adept at physical comedy as they are at fast-paced banter, operatic vocal stylings and giving the audience their all.

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)
Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)
El Grande de Coca-Cola premiered off-Broadway four decades ago and has been produced throughout the world, in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Original co-creator and producer Alan Shearmanrecently updated the show's script, though it is still almost entirely in Spanish. No matter: slapstick transcends language. Sisters fight over attention, two people get married in slow motion, a guitarist attempts his best version of a 90's classic. There's plenty of backstage drama, as well as bright ruffled costumes and two Coca-Cola ads (one of which ends in tragedy). Clad in a spotless white tuxedo, Pepe Hernandez (Johnny Garcia) presides over the action, occasionally throwing in his own impressions of Simon Cowell and Richard III. Happy to be at the center of it all, he corrals his family into everything from dance contests to Shakespeare soliloquies, even when Miguel (Christian Valdivieso) attempts to hit on women in the audience and daughter Maria (Sophie Hernando Kofman) tries her hardest to incorporate "Let Me Entertain You" from Gypsy.

It's fun to step into a world that is definitely not Chicago, and to sit and watch a family of color who, despite their squabbling and yelling, love each other above all else. Despite its light innuendo and cash bar, El Grande de Coca-Cola is surprisingly wholesome, something of a modern-day Laurence Welk or the "Full House" episode where the family bands together to fill airtime when patriarch Danny Tanner falls asleep during an all-night charity telethon. The cast are clearly gifted as singers, dancers and instrumentalists, because only those who are good can convincingly play mediocre or bad. And they're incredible to watch because of it, even when the audience is wincing in sympathy as three siblings attempt a magic trick...and it doesn't go too well.

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)
Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

Director and choreographer Jon Martinez has an impressive resume in both disciplines, most recently choreographing Circle Theatre's . His joy and sense of fun both shine through in El Grande de Coca-Cola , as the cast takes every available opportunity to play for laughs, and are rewarded. But in every moment of , there is love. The show may be a parody in the technical sense, but it's been performed internationally for over 40 years for a reason. No matter what language we speak, what family we are born into, what artistic pursuits we love, we all want to belong somewhere. El Grande de Coca-Cola is a tale as old as time, but it's also fresh and relevant. From Pepe's dad jokes to sibling rivalry, this is a show where language doesn't matter - but family always does.

El Grande de Coca-Cola continues through September 29th at Berger Park Coach House, 6215 N. Sheridan (map), with performances Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8pm. Optional dinner and pre-show entertainment Thursdays-Saturdays beginning at 7pm. Tickets are $20 for Wednesdays shows. Thursdays thru Satudays shows are $40 performance only (with cash bar), or $60 for buffet taco dinner, drinks and show. Tickets are available online through (check for availability of ). More information at ElGrandeDeCocaCola.com. (Running time: 80 minutes without intermission)

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)
Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

Photos by Joel Maisonet

behind the scenes

Jon Martinez (director, choreographer), Christopher Sylvie (stage manager), Diane Hamm (costume design), Tonika Todorova (production manager), Harrison Ornalas (scenic design, technical director), Frank Pullen (producer, lighting design), Joel Maisonet (photos)

Review: Grande Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe Summer Stages)
Review: El Grande de Coca-Cola (Waterfront Cafe & Summer Stages)

Tags: 18-0811, Alan Shearman, Berger Park Coach House, Berger Park Cultural Center, Chicago Theater, Christian Valdivieso, Christopher Sylvie, Circle Theatre, Daviel Bailón, Diane Hamm, Diz White, Frank Pullen, Harrison Ornalas, Joel Maisonet, John Neville-Andrews, Johnny Garcia, Jon Martinez, Lauren Emily Whalen, Pauleth Jauregui, post, Richard Gomez, Ron House, Sophie Hernando Kofman, Tonika Todorova, Waterfront Cafe, Waterfront Stages, Waterfront Summer Stages

Category: 2018 Reviews, Berger Park Coach House, Lauren Emily Whalen, Waterfront Stages


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