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'4 Guys Named Jose'

It's summer in Ashland. That means hot days, cool nights — and ... salsa.

Salsa? Yep. That's what Oregon Cabaret Theatre will be — serving up when it opens its new show "4 Guys Named Jos? .. and una mujer — named Maria." Billed as a musical fiesta, the show opens Friday, June — 11 with previews June 9 and 10, and runs until Sept. 5. Shows are 8 p.m. — Wednesday through Monday at the Cabaret, First and Hargadine streets. — There are no shows on Tuesdays and no matinees.

"4 Guys Named Jos? .. and una mujer named Maria" is a — tribute to the music and spirit of Latin America. Dolores Prida and David — Coffman created the show with musical arrangements by Oscar Hernandez. — It premiered in New York City and went on to successful productions in — Miami and other cities. Oregon Cabaret's artistic director Jim Giancarlo — is directing and choreographing the Ashland show, with musical direction — by Eric Nordin. Set and lighting design are by Craig Hudson, costume design — is by Kerri Lea Robbins. Sound design is by Frank Sullivan and Kathleen — Mahoney is the stage manager.

A thin plot serves as backdrop for some fantastic music. — Four guys of Latino heritage (Cuban, Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican) — find themselves living in Nebraska, of all places. Homesick for their — cultural roots, they begin getting together to sing their favorite songs. — One thing leads to another and they decide to put on a show, with the — added attraction of a Latina college student named Maria.

The cast has personally experienced the feelings of both — connection and separation from their heritage in their own lives. They — were all born in the United States in families that have their roots in — Latin America.

Jimmy L. Garcia (Jos? Boriqua) has appeared at the Oregon — Shakespeare Festival and Artattack.

"It's easy to tie into being an American of Latin descent," — Garcia said. "I was practicing a song from the show in my mom's house — in Idaho. She started singing along. This is what I want audiences to — experience - 'Oh, I know that song.'"

A theme that runs through the play is the fact that Latin — music has always been here in the United States, particularly from the — 1940s to today.

"The rhythm is really important in the show," Garcia emphasizes. — "Let it move you. No matter where you're from, you feel that rhythm. You — don't even have to be Latin."

Jason Winfield (Jos? Dominicano) says the show helps him — appreciate the music, especially since he didn't grow up with it.

"I'm getting exposure to a culture I haven't had as much — exposure to as I would have liked," he said. "I read things in the paper — now that are related to the Latin culture and they mean more."

Winfield describes the music as very poetic.

"It loses a lot of the lyricism it had in Spanish when — you translate it," Winfield said. "But even if you can't understand the — lyrics, you can understand what's trying to come across. Hopefully that's — what we'll do in the performance - ease people into the mix of Spanish — and English."

The show mixes the two languages, Giancarlo pointed out, — describing it as a comfortable fit. He has assembled a band with Nordin — on piano, Jim Malachi on drums and Patrice Sheahan on Latin percussion.

Jenn Roman (Maria) is grateful to be in a show other than — "West Side Story" that features her Latin heritage.

"It's the first time I've done a show with music I grew — up with and heard my grandparents sing," Roman said.

She remembers hearing records of Latin music greats such — as Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. "It's important to remember that time and — move forward to a new generation and celebrate the old in a positive way. — I feel the show does do that."

Mark Enea (Jos? Cubano) recalls singing a song from the — show and hearing someone remark, "That's such an old song."

He feels that audience members of the older generations — will know the songs, many of which are new for him. Enea grew up hearing — Spanish spoken but not speaking it himself.

"I've been around the culture with my mom and aunt. It's — in me," Enea said.

Graciano Nunez (Jos? Mexicano) grew up in Texas in a home — where his family spoke Spanish. The major musical influence in his life — was Selena.

"Listening to her got me dancing," Nunez said.

He remembers attending festive parties with hired bands. — The music and dancing that form the Cabaret show have got him thinking, — "I can see taking this to where I grew up," Nunez said wistfully. "I come — from a big family. If only my family came to see me, I could fill the — place."

Giancarlo is happy to bring this show to Ashland.

"This is a country of immigrants unless you're Native — American," Giancarlo said. "The characters in the play are saying, 'We're — Americans of today, but we have this culture lined up behind us and we — want to connect with both.'"

Giancarlo wants the show to be something the Hispanic — culture will say "thank you" for, and that others will enjoy too.