Monday December 17 4:17 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"El Grande de Coca-Cola" will keep You Laughing!

El Grande - sm.jpg

I can’t remember when I had more fun at an opening. I laughed until my cheeks hurt, and then I laughed some more! There are a lot of factors contributing the success of any comedy, chief among them – the cast. You know that in order to spoof something, like dancing, for example, the actor has to be a good dancer. In addition to brilliant comedic chops, these kids are multi-talented. They’re not just comedic actors, they’re all good dancers, singers, and musicians – and they get to wear funky costumes! Kudos to director/choreographer Jon Martinez.

The story is simple: A local would-be impresario, Pepe Hernandez (Johnny Garcia), claims he hired some major international stars for a show, then convinces the local Coca-Cola bottling plant to back the show in exchange from some blatant product plugs during the performance. When the stars fail to show, he convinces his family to fill in.

Although the show is done entirely in Spanish, the words are simple enough that almost everyone should be able to understand the meanings. If anyone has trouble, the wacky actions/reactions of the cast reinforce the language.

His daughter, Maria Hernandez (Sophie Hernando Kofman) opens the show. Her exasperated facial expressions are priceless as her a song is interrupted – more than once – when the crew (a cousin) can’t keep the karaoke music going.

Maria is followed by another Hernandez daughter, Consuelo (Pauleth Jauregui), who promises a fabulous show – after all, she says, they rehearsed everything - for an hour! As you watch Consuelo sing her song, it is obvious that she thinks she was born to be a star.

After Consuelo concludes her song, Maria joins her and they both go into the audience, recognizing several “celebrities” sitting at the tables.

Hernandez son, Miguel (Christian Valdivieso), who thinks he’s a chick-magnet, and family friend, Juan Rodriguez (Richard Gomez), would rather be doing anything but this show, but Pepe’s word is law! Miguel and Juan provide musical accompaniment as well as funny faces and pratfalls!

Pepe was careful to thank his sponsors, Coca-Cola as well as Colgata, while Maria and Consuela wore headpieces garnished with bottles of Coke. The skits were hilarious. A couple of my favorites – a totally inept magic show, a whiny mind-reader, a slapstick and very unromantic tango, the fake legs from the magic act which reappear in random skits, Juan’s off-key rendition of a Jackson song, a rap quartet which the four younger family members love – and Pepe hates, and many more.

The Waterfront Café & Summer Stages production of “El Grande de Coca-Cola” runs through September 29th at the Berger Park Cultural Center’s Coach House Theater, 6215 North Sheridan Road, Chicago. Street parking is hard to find in this neighborhood, but can be found at Loyola, just two blocks north of Berger Park.

Running time is about 70 minutes, no intermission. The venue has limited seating for 40 guests over age 21. Performance times:
• Wednesdays, 8:00 pm, general admission seating $20, cash bar available.
• Thursdays, 7:00 pm dinner, drinks; 8:00 pm show; $60.00; show only, $40.
• Fridays, 7:00 pm dinner, drinks; 8:00 pm show; $60.00; show only, $40.
• Saturdays, 7:00 pm dinner, drinks; 8:00 pm show; $60.00; show only, $40.
FYI (773) 761-3294 or www.elgrandedecocacola.com.