By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dallas Children's Theater has a charming, heartwarming family comedy in Mariachi Girl. A Latina fifth-grader named "Cita" (Aisha San Roman, in her 20s and a bit curvy to play a 10-year-old) idolizes her dad (David Lugo), a Mexican-born carpenter who moonlights as the leader of a mariachi band. She begs to sing with the group but her father refuses, citing "family tradition" and cultural biases against letting girls be mariachis. Of course, he'll relent by the end of this 70-minute mini-musical. And Cita will get her moment at the microphone backed up by real-life mariachi musicians Miguel Cantu, Jason Augusto Molina, Armando Monsivais and Madison Koen.
Playwright Roxanne Schroeder-Arce's script, delivered in a mix of Spanish and English, is simple, cliche-ridden and never tells much history of mariachi music. Composer-lyricist Hector Martinez Morales' five songs are the highlights of the show, keeping to the mariachi style but moving the story along. Robyn Flatt directs.
Lugo's deep, rich voice blends nicely with the singing of Vanessa DeSilvio, who plays Cita's conflicted mom, torn between a daughter's desire to perform and her fear of backlash from a tradition-bound husband. San Roman, in the lead, is a disappointment when she finally gets her chance to sing. We expect Selena and what we hear is a thin, shaky soprano. Despite that, Mariachi Girl ends on a feelgood, with hugs all around and folklorico dancers swirling onto the stage for the mariachis' encore.