Singer Betsayda Machado, second from the left, and the drums-and-voices ensemble La Parranda El Clavo Photo courtesy Xavier Lujan
Presenting music from a foreign tradition poses particular challenges. Yes, music transcends much, but much is lost in the translation. How to make an audience experience the culture, live the stories and meet the people who created it? How to transport an audience — fresh from a parking lot, now properly seated in a theater — to the natural setting of the music?
“Viva La Parranda!,” the new show from Miami New Drama now playing at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, is billed as a musical, but it plays like a richly layered, live documentary on a slice of Afro-Venezuelan music and culture. Featuring singer Betsayda Machado and the drums-and-voices ensemble La Parranda El Clavo, “Viva La Parranda!” was created by Machado and the group in collaboration with director Juan Souki
Set on El Clavo, a small town in the Barlovento region of Venezuela that, Machado notes, “is not in Wikipedia,” “Viva La Parranda!” has no plot per se. Instead, it slowly builds on stirring musical numbers, storytelling, dancing, live onstage cooking and video projections. The result feels as close as a traditional-music performance can get to an immersive experience.