Celebrating the rich tradition of Día De Los Muertos | VailDaily.com

Celebrating the rich tradition of Día De Los Muertos

Touring company of ‘Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure’ comes to Battle Mountain High School

‘Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure’ plays Friday at Battle Mountain High School.
Courtesy photo

The rich tradition of Día De Los Muertos honors deceased relatives and friends, and in doing so, it offers lessons for other cultures. “Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure” celebrates Day of the Dead through music, dance and story Friday evening at Battle Mountain High School.

The tale follows 12-year-old Vita Flores, who just wants to be “normal” and go trick-or-treating for Halloween, but her family is throwing a party for their deceased loved ones.

Vita finds herself in anywhere but a normal world when a charismatic candy skeleton springs to life and she’s taken on a magical, musical journey to understand the true meaning of Día De Los Muertos as she dances with ancient ancestors, sings with a sorrowful sorceress and conquers her fear of death by defeating El Coco (depicted by a 15-foot puppet with a pumpkin head) and trickster friend Chaneques.

Vita must defeat El Coco, depicted by a 15-foot puppet.
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“Sugar Skull!” features three musicians playing live, traditional Mexican music, two dancers and three actors. The show originated in 2017, when New York City based producer Leah Keith wanted to add a story to her husband’s musical company, which has performed at schools in the tri-city area for 20 years, to expand knowledge of Mexican music beyond the stereotypical mariachi band. Keith, a Colorado native who studied theater at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, employed fellow UNC graduate and playwright Gregory Van Acker, as well as Sinuhé Padilla for orchestration and arrangements, to create a narrative around the tradition of Día De Los Muertos.

The colorful and energetic show fills the stage with song, dance and spectacular costumes.

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“It’s a beautiful entry point for audience members who may see the skeleton face but may not know about the culture,” Keith said.

Live musicians play on stage in ‘Sugar Skull!’
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The company raised $20,000 to elevate the show and hired director Elana Aráoz before completing an eight-week, 30-city tour across the nation in 2019. It was scheduled for another fall tour in 2020, before the pandemic hit. Now, the performers are back on the road and coming to the Vail Valley for the first time.

“The response has been tremendous. It’s a family and children’s show with an original script, not from a book, told with a lot of heart and authenticity. It touches on themes of finding oneself, identity and connecting with identity. It doesn’t only speak to folks who might be of Mexican descent but also to many folks who have come from immigrant families,” Keith said. “Those of us who are not of that descent can borrow from that to cope with death. The Caucasian culture doesn’t have those tools.”

The 60-minute interactive performance draws in kids and adults alike as the artists reach out, asking them to “help me call the ancestors” and otherwise engaging with the audience, while spreading the message of Día De Los Muertos.

‘Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure’ is filled with colorful costumes, music and dance.
Courtesy photo

“These families are seeing themselves on stage,” Keith said, adding that a father just took his son to the show in Arizona and said, “This is exactly what Chicano boys need to see right now.”

Behind its celebration of life and those who have passed, “Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure” features Grammy-award winning artist Felipe Fournier directing the production.

“There is no family show like this touring,” Keith said.

The story takes 12-year-old Vita Flores on a journey to discover the true meaning of Día De Los Muertos.
Courtesy photo
If you go…

What: ‘Sugar Skull! A Día De Los Muertos Musical Adventure’

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Battle Mountain High School Auditorium

Tickets: $10; kids 12 and under, free

More info: VilarPAC.org

En Espanol: Vita Flores, una niña de 12 años de edad piensa que su familia se ha vuelto loca planeando una fiesta para sus familiares que han fallecido. ¿Por qué hacer una fiesta para los muertos? Pero cuando una calavera de azúcar con gran espíritu toma vida, Vita se encuentra en un viaje mágico y musical que revela el verdadero significado del Día de los Muertos. Ven y conoce a Sugar Skull, un carismático esqueleto con uno o dos secretos. Con su nuevo amigo, Vita baila con sus antepasados, canta al lado de una bruja en lamento, se escapa del malicioso Chaneques e incluso conoce a la famosa Calavera Catrina. Pero, ¿será que este grupo de jóvenes podrá juntar las piezas faltantes necesarias para la ofrenda de su familia antes de que sea muy tarde?

Sugar Skull! es una aventura alegre y sincera que se adentra en la riqueza de las tradiciones del Día de los Muertos. Con una compañía de talentosos músicos y bailarines, esta colorida producción es el entretenimiento perfecto en este otoño para el público juvenil y familiar.

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