Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre presents concert version of ‘La Casa Azul’


For Gregory Hancock, his musical based on Mexican artist Frida Kahlo gives him the opportunity to exhibit a different side of his talents.

“While most people are familiar with my work as a choreographer/director, I am also a composer/musician,” said Hancock, executive artistic director of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre. “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to experience another side of my interests and skills. Honestly, this will be a dream come true to hear my music played by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra and sung by 20 talented vocalists at the beautiful Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts.

“It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the entire cast of instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, directors and audience.”

Hancock’s production of “The Music of La Casa Azul” is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 5 in a different format than the original production. It is a sung-through musical inspired by the life of Kahlo.

“Previous productions have been the presentation of the complete theatrical musical experience,” Hancock said. “This production is a concert version with the focus of the music of ‘La Casa Azul.’ Concert versions of musicals allow the audience to focus solely on the music and have a different and unique perspective of a production. Of course, because it is a sung-through musical, the audience will still understand the narrative of the storyline. The vocalists will be dressed in evening attire and staging is more minimal without all the usual stage action to aid in progressing the storyline.”

Dancers will be dressed in costumes from the theatrical production and will add color and a visual element to the production.

Hancock said a few edits have been made to enhance the concert experience. The musical was first performed in 2015.

“I feel productions are often a living organism, which continues to evolve with our world,” Hancock said. “Whenever I return to this production, I see and learn new things about myself and the piece itself. Just as we grow and evolve throughout our lives, so it is with works of performance art as well.”

Hancock said 16 of the 20 dancers have been in previous productions, including Abigail Lessaris, who will again portray La Muerte (Death) as Frida’s constant companion.

Bibi Heredia, a TV personality from Telemundo, will be the emcee for the evening.

Jessica Crum Hawkins, a Fishers resident, will sing the role of Kahlo.

“Jessica has appeared in all the previous productions and was the originator of the role in the premiere production,” Hancock said. “Jessica not only brings an incredible voice to the incredibly vocally demanding role, (but also provides) by a depth of understanding to the trials and tribulations of Frida Kahlo. While the musical is inspired by the life of Frida, it is ultimately about the resilience of the human spirit in us all. Frida took her tragedies and turned them into unique and personal creativity. I have done the same throughout the previous productions, and this time it is another cathartic journey for me.”

Staging will be directed by director and playwright Georgina Escobar, with vocal direction by Tammy Anderson.

“Georgina is a brilliant (New York City)-based playwright/director, and as a Mexican woman brings her world of experiences to the production,” Hancock said. “Tammy is an exceptional vocal director and knows exactly how to bring out the best in each singer. Both are completely invaluable to the production.”

Carmel Symphony Orchestra Artistic Director Janna Hymes said it’s always special to collaborate with other arts organizations.

“This project is extra special because I will be working with my friend, Gregory Hancock, who is an incredible artist in many ways,” Hymes said. “A choreographer, dancer, painter, costume designer and maker, he also composed this epic piece about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is rare to meet someone who excels in so many areas, and Gregory is very special in that regard.”

Hymes said the concert will feature a chamber orchestra of about 40 musicians.

“There are always challenges when you put on a production that involves singers, musicians, staging, lighting, dancing,” she said. “I wouldn’t call them challenges as much as components which need to come together seamlessly to seem as one. I don’t foresee any issues and we are all looking forward to an incredible experience.”

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