In 1943, Los Angeles exploded in the infamous Zoot Suit riots, provoked by the Sleepy Lagoon murder case that railroaded young Chicano gang members who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Valdez masterfully synthesizes fact and fiction, using the case to examine Chicano Zoot Suit culture of the '40s, prejudices, the role of the media in the judicial system, and Latino family culture. Passionate and provocative, Zoot Suit pulses with the beat of '40s Big Band Music and traditional Latin songs.
Starring (in alphabetical order):
Xochiquetzal Candelaria as Alice Bloomfield
Raul Cardona as Joey Castro, Marine
Daniel Chacon as Tommy Roberts, Cub Reporter, Sailor
Estrella Esparza as Della Barrios
Spencer Garrett as The Press, Prosecutor
Ruben C. Gonzalez as Smiley Torres, Rafas, Swabie
Gregory Itzin as George Shearer
Alma Martinez as Dolores Reyna
Seth Millwood as Lt. Edwards, Guard, Shore Patrol
Marco Rodriguez as El Pachuco
Al Ruscio as Judge F.W. Charles
Daniel Valdez as Enrique Reyna
Katrina Valdez as Bertha Villareal, Newsboy
Kinan Valdez as Henry Reyna
Lakin Valdez as Rudy Reyna, Sgt. Smith, Bailiff, Bosun's Mate
Primavera Flor Valdez as Lupe Reyna
This musical examination of the L.A. "zoot suit riots" of 1943 created a sensation when it became the first musical by a Mexican-American to hit Broadway. The author directed a celebrated film version in 1981, which is still circulating on video. The author also directed this audio version, taped before a studio audience and beautifully produced by Raymond Guama. Briskly paced, it is full of Latin fire and lively Big Band and Chicano melodies. But the acting is uneven and - lacking dazzling dances, costumes, and the color of a full production - the action can be difficult to follow. The music, under Daniel Valdez's baton, is superb.
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- Lisa Canales