The term Dreamer refers to an immigrant youth who qualifies for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Introduced to Congress in 2001, the ‘Act’ would create a path to citizenship for immigrant young people (passing background checks) brought to the United States as children without documentation. Having grown up here, American in every way except on paper, thousands of innocent lives hang in the balance while a country that has always been proud of the term melting pot denies current and future contributors to society rights to which they’ve proven themselves worthy.
Alex Paez (Martin), Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda (Felicitas) – Tony’s parents
Americano is the true story of Arizona resident Tony Valdovinos whose plight, like that of all Dreamers, remains frustrating and sad. The musical effectively wears its heart on its sleeve. Storyline is appealing and well told. Its company is talented and energetic (also diverse in both ethnicity and, refreshingly, body-types). Direction and staging are skilled. Unfortunately, formulaic songs all sound alike and lyrics with few exceptions arrive pedestrian. This doesn’t kill, but somewhat curbs overall enjoyment.
Martin Valdovinos (Alex Paez – so solid a depiction, he’s infuriating) has risen to head foreman at a construction company. His wife Felicitas (believable Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda) is an active part of the community. Younger son Hector (Ryan Reyes – deft awkwardness) is a shining student who will undoubtedly go on to graduate school. Older son Tony (Sean Ewing – excellent portrayal) works for his father. With 9/11 in Tony’s rear view mirror and great love of this country, his abiding ambition is to join the Marines as soon as he turns 18, serving his country and eventually becoming a war correspondent. His girlfriend Ceci (Legna Cedillo – warm presence, good voice) also plans to enlist.
Legna Cedillo (Ceci), Sean Ewing (Tony)
Tony shows up at the recruitment center on his birthday only to discover the fact that he has no social security number and no papers is not, as his father has suggested, just a matter of time. Naïve and crushed, he learns he’s probably undocumented. Confrontation ensues at home. His parents had carried him over the border at age two and never told their son what that would mean in terms of his future. Martin assumed his boy would stay in the family business or that DACA would finally pass Congress. Tony is furious, packs a bag and goes to stay elsewhere.
The story is not all sturm und drang. An opening song, the double entendre “We Pave the Way” performed by a construction crew, is buoyant and imaginative. There’s a lively company picnic at which Hector meets his first girlfriend, fellow nerd, Jessica (Carolina Miranda). Tony realizes Ceci is more than a buddy, and her pal Joaquin (Lucas Coatney, credible and engaging – the requisite gay Sancho Panza in contemporary musicals) becomes Tony’s greatest supporter and friend. There’s also an unnecessary tangent involving a gang member.
Ceci enlists and is packed off to Iraq, Tony’s proposal in her ear. With Joaquin’s help, the hero finds new purpose in life becoming proactive on his own and others’ behalf, working with legislative representative Carlos Ledesma (Justin Figueroa). Neither event is smooth going. The piece ends on a high note full of passion and hope. If only…One leaves the theater rooting for Dreamers and for this mostly young company.
Michael Barnard’s direction is adroit. He makes full use of the evocative multiple level set by Robert Andrew Kovach. Adriana Diaz’s costumes look as if characters walked off the street, realistic but perhaps less visually attractive than they might be.
The real Tony Valdovinos is now 29 and the founder of La Machine Field Operations, a Phoenix-based political consulting firm specializing in helping Democrats with their political ground games.
Sean Ewing (Tony) and Justin Figueroa (Carlos) at a rally
Update: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA and against the Trump Administration in June 2020, saying that the manner in which Trump ended DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” On April 12, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that DACA renewals can now be filed online after creating a USCIS online account…Backlog is HUGE nor is there any guarantee the act will pass as long as Republicans hold sway.
Photos by Maria Baranova
Americano! A New Musical
Book by Michael Barnard, Jonathan Rosenberg, Fernanda Santos
Music and Lyrics by Carrie Rodriguez
Additional Lyrics by Michael Barnard and Jonathan Rosenberg
Directed by Michael Barnard
Choreographed by Sergio Mejia
Based on the life of Tony Valdovinos
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
Through June 19, 2022