the lives of 52 of its cast members.

South Florida Sun-Sentienel - Friday June 9, 2006
By Sean Pioolly - Pop Music Writer

Nicole "ND" Durr still revels in the real-lite story behind HavanaNightShow, wherein she went to Cuba and created a touring homage to Cuban music, helped 52 cast members defect to the United States. But the creator and producer of the celebrated music revue says she doesn't want the heartwarming saga to obscure what's happening on stage.

"When we started out here, everybody was only writing about the story," says Durr, "and the passion that comes alive onstage
couldn’t be so intense without the story. But now I think it's time to look at the artistic side and to not only see it as a Cuban show. It's the biggest Latin show in the world."

Durr isn’t taking Havana out of HatavanaNightShow — originally called HavanaNightCIub — but she says the production coming to Hard Rock Live in Hollywood on Tuesday expands on her original vision. "it's a whole new version", she says.

The show still illustrates the development of Cuban music throngh song-and-dance numbers, and anyone who saw HavanaNightShow last year in Coral Gables will see the basic timeline intact. What's new is a growing emphasis on the whole ot Latin music. HavanaNightShow connects Cuba to
other countries, including Mexico and Brazil, through their shared musical traditions.

"HavanaNigitShow is now the journey of the drum," she says, "because if you think about all Latin music it is very driven by rhythm, by the drum."

The show begins with a kind of creation myth, what Durr calls "the birth of the drum" and from there its productions numbers touch on various milestones: the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythm with melodic traditions brought by the colonists of Spain; the explosion of Cuban music both in the city and the countryside; the rise at rumba and mambo; the glory days of the Havana night life in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

It ends with a celebration at contemporary Latin music and rhythm as heard in the streets of Havana, San Juan, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. "Because everything new is born in the streets," says Durr, adfing, "so you’re going to hear that crazy hip hop reggaeton with the rumba in there."

The ioumey of the drum isn’t so much completed as brought to the present day in a production that can adapt over time to any new wrinkles in Latin music.

Durr calls the Tuesday performance a test run for an even larger fall tour that will open at New York’s Madison Square Garden and include a Nov. 10 visit to American Airines Arena in Miami. "Since we stopped at the Stardust (in Las Vegas)." Durr says, "I wanted to concentrate solely on rehearsal to change the show. So the Hard Rock in a way is a show to see where I stand from the technical point.”

With 13 musicians, 14 singers and 32 dancers, it is a show with a lot of moving parts. But most of the original cast members that Durr assembled in Havana eight years ago remain with the company which is based in Las Vegas. Durr says that a couple of dancers have gotten married and left, but she's been able to find other expatriate Cubans to ill those roles.

The defectors are settling into their new American lives. They have Social Security numbers and make their homes in geater Las Vegas. With the assent of the Cuban government, many who left spouses and children behind in Cuba are finally being reunited with those loved ones.

"But you know on the other hand they have to adapt to this life that is very diflerent, and they are very young," Durr says. "They are learning what it means to have credit in this country, and all these crazy things that we take for ganted."

She says that recently two cast members, a dancer and the troupe's musical director, just got married to each other. The cast of HavanaNightShow is, she says with a laugh, "becoming a society unto itself."