Linda Ronstadt's new stage show, "Canciones de Mi Padre," which opened a four-night stand at the Warner Theatre last night, resembles a Broadway revue far more than a pop concert. Fourteen costumed musician/singers, six dancers and elaborate Tony Walton sets surrounded Ronstadt as she sang the 13 traditional mariachi songs from her recent album plus six others in the same vein. The show was well sung and attractively mounted, but one left the theater feeling no closer to Mexican culture than one felt to Harlem culture after seeing "Bubbling Brown Sugar."
Non-Spanish-speakers were left at an even greater distance when the promised surtitles failed to materialize, and despite the high ticket price, no complimentary programs were available. The show doesn't attempt a plot, but reduces a complex tradition to happy dances, colorful costumes, air-tight arrangements and musical virtuosity without much personality.
Ronstadt's soprano has grown richer and more controlled over the years, and her full-throated vocals were often quite pleasurable, especially on the love-struck ballads like "Por Un Amor" or "Hay Unos Ojos." Nonetheless, the high level of melodramatic artifice in her performance robbed the songs of any personal connection.
In their numbers without Ronstadt, Sal Lopez, Urbanie Lucero and the Ballet Folklo'rico de La Fonda unfortunately relied on flashy costumes to disguise the uninspired choreography and mediocre execution. s Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan boasted some superb musicians, but Ruben Fuentes' polished, conservative arrangements allowed for almost no solos or challenging harmonies.