Review: Bold, poignant dance musical examines refugee crisis

Diego Luis Cortes, Caleb Marshall-Villarreal and Gabriella Enriquez in “A Crossing.” (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY DANIEL RADER)

By Mark G. Auerbach


PITTSFIELD — “A Crossing: A Dance Musical” is bold, brash, bright, poignant and electrifying, and one of the most exciting dance theater pieces to emerge in recent years. It sizzles with energy and compassion, and it sings and dances with abandon. Barrington Stage’s latest musical is exciting on every level. It’s another feather in the cap of a theater that has nurtured new and revised works for Broadway and theater beyond. If “On The Town,” “American Son,” “Southern  Comfort,” and “Boca” are superb Barrington Stage exports, “A Cross: A Dance Music” exceeds them.

The global refugee crisis has made headlines for centuries, but it also has the potential to make good theater. Stories of immigrants hit home, because we all descend from immigrants. Maybe some of our ancestors’ stories were told in “Fiddler on the Roof,” or “Flower Drum Song,” or “Rags.” People leave their homes and culture behind for a reason.

“A Crossing” has been eagerly awaited, since it was originally announced for 2020, and postponed during the pandemic. The talents of Bergasse and St. Germain elicit excitement among theater people. Joshua Bergasse is one of this generation’s most important choreographers and now directors. He won an Emmy for his choreography for “Smash,” staged “On the Town” for Barrington Stage (and then on Broadway, where he got a Tony nomination), along with highly acclaimed New York City Center Encores productions of “Superman” and “I Married an Angel.” Mark St. Germain is the prolific playwright who premieres so many of his plays at Barrington Stage.

Caleb Marshall-Villarreal. (SUBMITTED PHOTO BY DANIEL RADER)

“A Crossing,” set in a Mexican border town, tells multiple stories through music and dance. Giselle and her grandfather, Arturo, are escaping the violence of the cartel. A pregnant Karina is fleeing a violent relationship. Martin wants to cross the border to reunite with his son. They’re all at the mercy of the Coyote to get them across the border to a new life in America. Mark St. Germain’s script is an outline for Zoe Sarnak’s and George Saenz’s score, a rich palate of Mexican folk tunes flavored with Broadway sounds. The musical is sung through, except when it dances, and the dancing is superb.

“A Crossing’s” totally danced through  sequence of the immigrants crossing through rain, through caves, and then crossing the Rio Grande is jaw-dropping. I haven’t seen anything this compelling or vivid on a musical stage in a long time. Bergasse’s work is enhanced by Beowulf Boritt’s imaginative set and Jeff Sugg’s projections. Leon Rothenberg’s sound effects are great, although the performers were over-amplified at times.


The ensemble of singer/dancers are all superb, and I was especially moved by Andres Quintero and Monica Tulia Ramirez as Sol and Luna, narrators of “A Crossing.” The standout dancer was Omar Nieves as Coyote. Caleb Marshall-Villarreal as Quetzalcoatl, brilliantly costumed by Alejo Vietti, stops the show in his dance sequence.

What an enthralling almost finale to Barrington Stage’s season. Performances run through Oct. 16, and then Barrington Stage makes way for another new musical, this one with Billy Crystal repeating his film role in “Mr. Saturday Night” to music of Jason Robert Brown and lyrics of Amanda Green. For details: www.barringtonstageco.org.


Barrington Stage presents the world premiere of A Crossing: “A Dance Musical,” created in association with Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. Story by Mark St. Germain. Original songs by Zoe Sarnak. Traditional Mexican folk song arrangements and additional score by George Saenz. Directed by Joshua Bergasse. Musical direction by Jeffrey Campos. Choreography by Joshua Bergasse and Albert Lopez. Musical supervision by Rick Hip-Flores. Scenic design by Beowulf Boritt. Costume design by Alejo Vietti. Lighting design by Jason Lyons. Sound design by Leon Rothenberg. Projection designs by Jeff Sugg. Through October 16. Boyd Quinson Main Stage. Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield. For details: www.barringtonstageco.org.


Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He has worked for arts organizations nationwide, and reported on the arts for print and broadcast. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat, Athenaeum Spotlight and On The Mark for WCPC15 and WSKB-FM 89.5. He’s a regular contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio and a member of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association.

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