Theatre patrons braved traffic in the downtown Las Vegas Arts District this weekend to pack the house for the opening night of Satango, the final production of Cockroach Theatre Company’s 15th Anniversary Season – and they were treated to a high energy 5-Star, a dance-filled evening of musical theatre.
Set right here in Las Vegas, Satango features 15 new songs by songwriter Stewart D’Arrietta and playwright and lyricist Justin Fleming. Lead actors Toby Allen (of Human Nature) and Savannah Smith (of Vegas! The Show) are accompanied by a live 5-piece band. When you add the talents of Musical Director/Arranger Keith Thompson — from Jersey Boys (The Palazzo) and The Composers Showcase (The Smith Centre) – along with a talented ensemble of musicians and dancers, the heat is palpable in Satan’s Supper Club, the “D-Minus” (a.k.a., Hell). Once in a millennium, the residents of heaven and hell come together to dance the dance of seduction, the tango, at the All Souls’ Ball. But what happens when the master of mischief forgets his moves? All hell breaks loose when Satan meets Sofia in this tour-de-force. When good and evil tango together, it’s more than a dance; it’s a moment of truth.
Luciano Satani (The Devil), whose rough-edged, raunchy and “unlovable” character is solidly captured by Toby Allen, is the protagonist with a problem. The All Souls’ Ball is fast approaching, and he must master the tango and find a partner. Enter Sofia (exceptionally portrayed by Savannah Smith), a shy, meek suburban girl who wanders into Hell claiming to hail from Pahrump (which sets up the premise for a duet with Satani, whose city of choice is New York, “which is next to Purgatory”). Satani is swiftly besotted with this delectable blonde dance instructor.
He promises to cure her ailing dog if she will teach him to tango. Eventually, Sofia even agrees to partner with Satani at the ball — as long she can make a request of her own. As the bewitching proceeds, the audience attempts to determine who’s seducing who? Without giving away the surprise ending, Michaela Boland (Variety) put it best when writing about the original production, presented in 2004 by A Griffin Theater Company in Sydney, Australia: “They tango, they taunt, they tease, and eventually the little woman commits herself to a life of fire and brimstone. Or does she?”
While it does take two to tango, they would be lost without the gifted performers who round out this ensemble: Cate Farrow and Socorro Jones (as Psychopomp); Alejandro Domingo (choreographer and Psychopomp), whose tango with Sofia as the dancing pizza boy just sizzled.
A wonderfully creative and campy work, Satango – with music by Stuart D’Arrietta, book, and lyrics by Justin Fleming — puts an irreverent spin on good and evil in song and dance and pits them against each other with a tongue-in-cheek style of humor.
Director Wayne Harrison (Absinthe, Vegas Nocturne, along with the original Griffin Theater Company production of Satango in Sydney, Australia), and his design team, have cleverly transformed the intimate, black box, Art Square Theatre into the “D-Minus” – applying suitable levels of glitz throughout — with room onstage for the musical quintet, along with projections of old Las Vegas casinos and active slot machines. Kudos to Joe Garcia Miranda (scenic design), Andy Killion (lighting design), Abby Stroot (costume design).
Cockroach Theatre has been producing consistently exciting, high-quality theatre in Las Vegas since 2003, and this final show of their 15th Anniversary season continues that tradition.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.