The Buena Vista Social Club™ musical tells the story of one of the most famous Cuban bands of all time. It’s a great story of some retired musicians who had long careers in Cuba, but were mostly unknown to the outside world. Their serendipitous 1996 album made them the iconic Cuban band, won a Grammy, toured the world, and became an Academy Award-winning Wim Wender documentary.
Now it’s a world premiere Saheem Ali musical with a team of famous creatives, a great New York cast and orchestra, and a truly inspiring story. This show has a very good chance of making it all the way to Broadway. All we have to do is go see it. “Chan, Chan.”
Buena Vista Social Club Musical
Buena Vista Social Club™ is a World Premiere Saheem Ali musical about the life stories of some retired Cuban musicians whose chance 1996 album made them the iconic Cuban band, won a Grammy, toured the world, and became an Academy Award-winning Wim Wenders documentary. It’s at the Atlantic Theater Company in Chelsea, Manhattan; in previews November 17, opening December 13, running through December 31, 2023. From $105. atlantictheater.org 🇨🇺
Seriously, this run is selling out. If you want tickets, you better hurry.
A World-Class Creative Team
This team can go all the way. They each have done so individually, many times. Now we get to see what they can do together.
Book author Marco Ramirez is a Miami Cuban best known for “The Royale” produced by Lincoln Center. It won Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards. He is also an Emmy nominee whose television credits include “Orange is the New Black” and “La Máquina” starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. 🇨🇺
Director Saheem Ali is the Kenyan American, Associate Artistic Director/Resident Director of the Public Theater, one of the most important Off-Broadway theaters in the United States. He is a Tony Award nominee for “Fat Ham” on Broadway, won the 2023 Obie Award for “Sustained Excellence in Directing” and won Drama Desk and Lucille Nortel nominations for “Fat Ham’s” Off-Broadway run at The Public. We loved his work during the pandemic. 🇰🇪
Co-Choreographer Patricia Delgado is a Miami Cuban who was a Miami City Ballet principal ballerina. She was Associate Choreographer of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” and Associate Producer of the show’s 2020 Broadway revival. She is now dance faculty at Juilliard. 🇨🇺
Co-Choreographer Justin Peck is a Tony Award winning choreographer, director, filmmaker and dancer. He is New York City Ballet’s acting Resident Choreographer. He choreographed the Tony Award winning 2018 Broadway revival of “Carousel,” and feature films Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” and Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro.” His ballet “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” won a Bessie Award and is in the New York City Ballet repertoire. 🇺🇸
Creative Consultant David Yazbek is one of Broadway’s leading composers/lyricists. His projects including “The Band’s Visit,” “Tootsie,” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” have received 35 Tony Award nominations. He won an Emmy for his work on “Late Night with David Letterman” and wrote the theme for the famous video game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Yazbek has also written and/or produced for Latin music legends including Ruben Blades and Tito Puente. He is of Lebanese descent. There is a large Lebanese Diaspora in Latin America. 🇱🇧
A Great New York Cast
Rarely to we get to see a theatre cast that looks so much like us.
Brian Seibert’s “New York Times” review, “Buena Vista Social Club,” a Story of Second Chances, Gets One More,” talks about how Cuban this show is. nytimes.com
The Original Buena Vista Social Club
Juan de Marcos González (1954), the bandleader and backing vocals, was recording a bunch of old-timers as the Afro-Cuban All Stars when Ry Cooder showed up in Havana in 1996 to record a Malian Cuban project for Nick Gold, because the traditions are related. When the Malians couldn’t get visas, the crew decided to record a bunch of retired old-timers playing son Cubano.
Many of the Afro-Cuban All Stars formed the new band. They recorded the album in six days. One of the songs was “Buena Vista Social Club.” It was about a community center where some of the band members started playing in the 1930s. By the 1950s it was peaking as a night club, but the Cuban Revolution of 1959 shut down everything. Anyway, the club’s name became the name of the band. “Buena Vista” means good view.
The artists suddenly became global superstars, but many were just a few years from life’s end. They made a great band, a great record, and there is no better way to go, than to go out with a big bang. This was big.
Compay Segundo (1907-2003) was a Cuban trova guitarist, singer, and composer. Cuban trova is protest folk music. He came up with Los Compadres, one of the most successful Cuban duos in their time. They called him “Segundo” (Second) because he always sang second voice. He wrote “Chan Chan” which became the Buena Vista’s signature song.
Eliades Ochoa (1946) is a guitarist and singer from eastern Cuba, the son Cubano heartland. He wears a cowboy hat something like a Cuban farmer. Country farmers are the original Cuban musicians. Ochoa eventually did record an album of Cuban and Malian musicians, “AfroCubism” in 2010.
Ibrahim Ferrer (1927-2005) was a great bolero singer from near Santiago de Cuba. After recording “Buena Vista Social Club,” he won the 2000 Latin Grammy for “Best New Artist” for his first solo album at 72 years young. He won another Grammy in 2004.
Omara Portuondo (1930) is a legendary Cuban singer and dancer who began her career in the glory days of The Tropicana nightclub in Havana, Cuba. She just brought her “Farewell World Tour Vida” tour to New York City a few weeks before this musical opened.
Rubén González (1919-2003) was one of the artists who defined the Cuban piano style. In the 1940s, he played for Arsenio Rodríguez who helped develop the son montuno which became the template for salsa. We love his version of “Mandinga” which you can hear on YouTube.
Son Cubano is Cuban Dance Music
The “Cuban Sound” is what everybody danced to at legendary clubs like The Tropicana, back in the day when Havana was hopping. It is one of the main foundations of Latin music.
Cuban culture usually forms in the east and moves west to the capital. The eastern city of Santiago de Cuba is the son Cubano heartland. The music formed in conversation with changüi from Guantanamo, rumba from Matanzas, and New Orleans jazz through Havana. In Cuba, it evolved into timba. In New York City, it evolved into salsa.
It really is the crossroads of our Latin thing. Bringing together African rhythms with first Spanish guitar and then piano, son Cubano is a beautiful intersection of the Dahomey, Yoruba, and Kongo, African Diaspora cultures that rooted in the Americas.
Regardless, Buena Vista Social Club makes you smile and want to ask someone to dance, just like we used to, once upon a time in la Habana.