I Like It Like That - A Musical successfully captures the heart of El Barrio.

Before the era of thinking it’s trendy to move into communities filled with John Doe next-door-neighbors, stood the voice of El Barrio and its homegrown cuisine of cultural sounds that we so eloquently call Salsa music today. I Like It Like That – A Musical, written by David Maldonado and Waddys Jaquez, is a theatrical masterpiece that not only captures life in Spanish Harlem during the 1970’s, but also illustrates the value of Salsa music and its expression of a Puerto Rican family’s will to survive amid an adverse American Dream.

I Like It Like That - A Musical successfully captures the heart of El Barrio.
I Like It Like That – A Musical successfully captures the heart of El Barrio.

The production currently features the legendary Tito Nieves, whose performance works as a centerpiece in shaping the direction of the musical’s cast and plot. Nieves plays the role of Don Roberto Rodriguez, a record store owner in Spanish Harlem, the neighborhood where he lives at with his wife and family. Rodriguez and his wife Carmen, played by the beautiful Shadia Fairuz, face the challenge of trying to instill certain principles into their four children, who have grown into young adults with differing personalities.

Rodriguez’s eldest son, Juan (Gilberto Velázquez), has an infatuation with the fast life and dangerous women. China (Caridad De La Luz) is an early-20’s something daughter, who endeavors to create a change in the political climate of her community. Carlos (Joseph “Quique” González) is the second eldest son, seeks to escape the perils of El Barrio by making it into law school. Finally, we have the youngest daughter, Paula (the multi-talented Ana Isabelle) that simply wishes to cross the threshold of life as a woman earlier than expected. The Rodriguez family life is made colorful by neighborhood characters like Tita (Rossmery Almonte), Rafa (Angel López), and Maria Luisa (played by the lovely Chachi Del Valle).

What I find absolutely amazing about I Like It Like That – A Musical is how each cast member represents an angle of Puerto Rican life in America without making the storyline overcrowded. Everything is so true to life, especially when you’re aware the depth of history behind the story. The fruitage of the cast’s hard work and effort is clearly seen by its tremendous and flawless performance.

Chacahi Del Valle’s depiction of La Lupe is incredible and I felt that the expression of her life story was told in the song and dance of the scene. Gilberto Velazquez gave a spectacular performance so reminiscent of the challenges and struggles of an inner-city youth that still rings true today. Caridad De La Luz really resurrected the essence of what the Young Lords were all about and how the movement developed and evolved. Rossmery Almonte’s role as Tita put the cherry on top of what may be one of the greatest theatrical productions ever. Esto es oro de la Palestina!

The diversity of the Rodriguez family is kept together by the same thing that kept the community together, Salsa. The production features the music of such legends as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Ismael Rivera, Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, Rubén Blades, Ismael Miranda, Johnny Pacheco, Pete El Conde, Hector Casanova, Richie Ray & Bobbie Cruz, La Lupe, Mon Rivera, El Gran Combo, Joe Cuba, Frankie Ruiz, and Patato & Totico.

Hosted by the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, I’m giving I Like It Like That – A Musical five out of five stars. Make sure to you don’t miss this nostalgic classic! It’s well worth it. Regardless of your background you’ll like it like that too!

Warlock Asylum

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