For the longest time, I have always wanted to travel the world and teach English as a language to the people all across the globe. I was able (on multiple occasions) to travel to Hungary, most recently spending two months over the summer of 2019) teach English in a camp. One of the highlights in my teaching career was being given the fantastic opportunity to teach English in the local Refugee centre to a group of adults who have a desire to learn English to become fully incorporated members of society. As my time their progress I become more and more frustrated by the stereotypes that people build up about refugees and people in general who are just there trying to build their lives in a new country. These students were some of the most attentive, focussed and dedicated learners who are great full for anything that you can teach them. Their intense drive comes solely from wanting to improve their own lives and lives of loved ones etc. Despite a very different emigration process her from the states, I understand that a very controversial topic is the issue of green cards. This is a subject covered by many tv shows and movies, which is the idea that people can gain residency by marrying someone who already has residency status. The plot of the off-Broadway musical follows the life of Han, played by Garrett Taketa, who is a struggling immigrant artist currently living in Harlem and creates a plan to get American citizenship (through a green card approach) by marrying Mia, played by Daniela Benítez, in an attempt be able to access the so-called ‘American Dream’ and achieve his dreams.
The show opens in a very traditionally musically theatre manner with a massive ensemble-based number. I can imagine this number being a spectacle which set the scene of Harlem and starts with the ensemble but as the song progresses focussed onto Han. I hope that the set for this opening scene (and the majority of the musical) are incredibly detailed and awe-inspiring as this would truly help transport the audience into the lives of the characters and help it become even more relatable. There is a reference within this song to the number “I hope I get it” from “Chorus Line” which is about a group of dancers who want a part in an upcoming production. However, this homage appeared to a more desperate beg that the original which honestly reflects the feels of Han in the show. Not only would this reference be appreciated by musical theatre fans as the stories show some parallels musical but also it has been adapted to reflect the very clever differences! This opening number reappears at the end of the show with a slight modification to reflect the time that has passed throughout. Have similar musical numbers open and close the show helps to make the show easy to follow and create a circular narrative which I enjoy. The show has a positive and uplifting message and there is a very emotional moment at the end of the show where Han proudly showcases his newly obtained student visa with the entire ensemble singing about how times have changed which was a very powerful few moments.
A highlight for me was the song “Dreams Tonight” which was perfectly performed by the wonderful Daniela Benítez. This song started off as a very character-based performance which was entertaining to listen to but by the end of the song it was a beautifully moving performances. The songs tell the story of how Mia wants to improve her quality of life but by the end is a showcase of her flawless vocals, especially that final riff that was out of this world! Daniela is a very talented performer which an astonishing voice and this song allowed her to showcase both of these incredible skills. The song “Little Trouble” is a hilarious portrayal of both Han and Mia being interviewed about there pretend relationship which I imagine is performed in two split police interrogation rooms with the inspector turning around to enter the different scenes as this would highlight the parallels and comedy in the two scenes. The song “Dance Lesson” is a clear metaphor about Mia and Hans relationship as it talks about going 2 by 2, Han lifting Mia and wanting the passion to never subside. This was Avery clever way to discuss marriage and when it reprises later in the song as a more intense manner, demonstrates clearly how the relationship has changed.
Overall, this musical captures the desire many immigrants have of improving their lives and allows people to view them in the light they deserve rather than the “stealing our jobs” perspective the media usually try to promote. It contains so wonderful performances and some astonishing vocals but also is underlined but an insanely powerful message! I would rate this show 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to anyone interested in how the musical format can be used to portray real-world and intense issues!