A pity that Hartford Stage’s new pre-Broadway musical, “Kiss My Aztec”, opened too late in the season to be considered for this year’s Connecticut Critics Circle awards. In a weak season for musicals, this bawdy and wildly energetic new show with book by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, music by Benjamin Velez and lyrics by Leguizamo, K David Kamp and Benjamin Velez, would definitely have been a contender. While I’m not as over-the-moon with praise as most of my colleagues, I can still easily recommend that anyone going to Hartford Stage right now is promised a very entertaining evening. This is the final show of what has been a somewhat mixed season at Hartford Stage.
Based on a screenplay written by Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky, “Kiss My Aztec” is an outrageous take on Hispanic and Latin culture with a twisted look at the Aztecs resistance against Spanish invaders. Into this battle goes fierce female warrior Colombino (Kristina Alabado) and her clownish sidekick, Pepe (a delightful Joel Perez), who are destined to hook-up. It is all supreme silliness as the plot thickens to include gay lovers, a promised bride-not-to-be and a Frenchmen with a stunning codpiece. Rude and raunchy are the primary adjectives here and the whole enterprise may remind you of Monty Python shenanigans with an obvious debt to Lin Manuel Miranda.
I found an almost overload of plot, however, especially noticeable in the second act which has several sluggish moments. And just a little of Pepe’s sock puppet action goes a long way with me. But the entire cast is superb with Z Infante and Matt Saldivar especially brilliant playing dual roles. All the voices are without equal covering a score that is a mix of Latinx, gospel, hip-hop, rap, ballads, salsa and more. I am still laughing at the show’s satirical opening number, “White Men on Boats”.
All this gleeful nonsense is breathlessly directed by Tony Taccone with Mayte Natalio’s lively choreography an invaluable asset. Give a medal also to Clint Ramos whose manic scenic design goes hand in sock puppet with his vibrant, go-for-broke costuming. Some trimming of the book is definitely in order for “Kiss My Aztec”, but fingers are crossed for this ambitious crowd-pleaser on its journey to Broadway.
“Kiss My Aztec” continues at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street in Hartford through June 26. For further information, call the box office at: 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.