Exiles on Main Street

The hour-and-a-half program is a melange of song, dance, and anecdote, with mood changes nicely highlighted by Todd Wren's lighting design. Singing in both Spanish and English, Torres has a silky pre-rock-and-roll voice. He seems to hold himself back on certain numbers and doesn't always hit the notes he strives for at the end of phrases. But when his voice loosens up, his renditions are passionate, particularly on the songs "Magic Is the Moonlight," "Perfidio," "Malaguena," and "Perhaps, Perhaps," the latter preceded by a funny imitation of Nat King Cole speaking Spanish.

The short sets are punctuated by Torres's dancing -- salsa, mambo, cha cha, merengue, tango -- with his partner and sister, Debbie Schuster. The two negotiate the postage-stamp-size stage expertly, and Schuster wears outrageously wonderful glitter party dresses, courtesy of costume designer Russell Duke. Equally entertaining is Torres's patter about growing up Cuban, about the influence of Latin music on its North American counterpart, about the influence of Cuban culture in general. He also does a great parody of movies that he notes are as "authentically Cuban as Hollywood could create," complete with Alice Faye wanting to know why the peanut man singing about mani is singing about money.

Torres is an accomplished showman with an obvious command of his material, but I was disappointed that the show didn't deliver what the poster outside the theater promised: a steamy evening. Smooth, rhythmic, romantic, yes; steamy, no. A little more time for percussionist Tony Verdejo to let loose with Afro-Cuban rhythms might have helped in that area. Were those pre-Castro days really as sultry as everyone claims? Maybe it's only memory that makes them so.

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