Rock opera breaks boundaries

University of Miami alumna Mariand Torres grasps a microphone, which she uses throughout "Murder Ballad" to narrate the story of a love triangle gone wrong. Tom (Chris Crawford), Sara (Blythe Gruda) and Michael (Mark Sanders) share the spotlight in this show as the plot circles around the affair that ends in a murder.

University of Miami alumna Mariand Torres grasps a microphone, which she uses throughout “Murder Ballad” to narrate the story of a love triangle gone wrong. Tom (Chris Crawford), Sara (Blythe Gruda) and Michael (Mark Sanders) share the spotlight in this show as the plot circles around the affair that ends in a murder.

When a sultry rock opera meets a sordid love triangle, the passion and over-the-top emotions explode into the powerful production of “Murder Ballad,” playing at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre through Nov. 2.

The Miami Hurricane had a chance to sit down with Mariand Torres, a University of Miami alumna who plays the narrator in “Murder Ballad.” We spoke with Torres about her sassy character, the sexy production and why “Murder Ballad” is a cautionary tale.

The Miami Hurricane: Can you tell me a little about Murder Ballad and about your character?

Mariand Torres: So ‘Murder Ballad’ is completely, fully sung through. So it’s sort of in an opera style; it’s a rock opera, I guess. A murder ballad is a song, like the song by The Beatles ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,’ songs about love gone wrong and love gone awry.

It’s a tradition; it’s a narrative song so ‘Murder Ballad’ is sort of using that form, so we are telling this story, a tale, of love gone wrong and who dies. And how they die is a mystery, and I can’t give it away. At the core, it’s about the things that push us. I think we all have this part of us that can snap, and it’s about when all of those inhibitions and all of those filters in us kind of, like, go away, and the things that drive you to do something crazy. And my character, I’m the narrator, so I narrate the story for the audience. That’s about all I’m gonna say, is I tell the story, I introduce the piece, I introduce the characters and I sort of lead them through this crazy, 90-minute journey.

 

TMH: How would you say you’re most similar or different from the Narrator?

MT: I think there’s something kind of fun-loving about her that I can totally relate to. She’s a sassy girl and she’s pretty honest and there’s … yeah, I think there’s a very fun-loving spirit about her and an intensity that for some reason I didn’t even know I had until I auditioned. And I was like, ‘oh ,wow, this is really easy for me to access, like, this girl’s intense and it’s easy for me and I like it and I get it.’ But again, we definitely have our differences, but I can’t give too much away. I have to be really careful about what I say.

 

TMH: What was the most challenging about this production?

MT: Well one of the more challenging things is you have to tell the story very carefully, and there’s a very delicate balance because we want the audience to have information, but then we also can’t give too much away. So we constantly have to push and pull a little bit with that and be very careful. The piece is completely sung-through, so you know we have to take pretty good care of our bodies and our voices because it’s a lot of work…Because it’s an hour nonstop, so it’s gonna be physically, you know, it’s gonna be a lot and vocally pretty demanding. I think the challenge is keeping the audience on their toes, just keeping them guessing and keeping them wondering.

 

TMH: Do you have a favorite memory of the production so far?

MT: I have to say working with our director working with David Arisco. He’s just such a trip. He is awesome. I think he has the perfect combination of like having fun in a rehearsal, but also knowing we have to get work done. Yeah, it’s been such a great and balanced experienced so far. You know I’ve had some where, you know sometimes a director can be little bit of a control freak, or it’s so much work. But anyway, I think there’s been a really great balance between let’s have a good time and enjoy ourselves and let’s get this done. So that’s been really cool. And David has so much passion for what he does and it’s inspiring and it’s a breath of fresh air.

 

TMH: Why should students from UM come to this show?

MT: Because it is nothing like what they have seen in South Florida. Immersive theater is something that’s getting really big in New York. There were three big immersive musicals last year Off Broadway, one of them was ‘Murder Ballad,’ the other was one that I did, Natasha Pierre. I think Actors’ Playhouse is one step ahead of the game right now, and you need to experience this.

Also, the music is accessible; it’s rock music. It’s not what you think of when you think of a traditional musical. It’s really real, it’s really raw, it’s really sexy – you’re gonna see some hot people. The environment is really cool … I mean, it’s set in a bar, and if you get there early, you can get a seat right there in the middle of the action and sit there enjoying an awesome show while having a drink. It’s a really cool experience. It’s really accessible to young people, I think. I really want to encourage the younger crowd to come see this because I think they would really appreciate it.

And I think especially people who don’t know much about musical theatre and have made their assumption about what it even is. So their minds will be changed.

 

TMH: What do you hope people leave the show with?

MT: Well, I hope they had a lot of fun. And I really hope they don’t follow the footsteps of the characters and their actions because they’re not the best ones. But it’s all about entertainment, and I hope they leave feeling that was a really awesome hour and a half and ‘I want to come back because I need to see this again.’

That’s a cool thing because the show is immersive. Anywhere you sit, you will get a different experience. So, you sit in one side of the theatre and it’s gonna be a different experience, and it will make you want to come back because you know, ‘oh there’s something that somebody was doing on that other side, that looked really cool so I should come back and see it from that perspective.’

I hope they leave having been extremely entertained for an hour and a half. And there’s also some really beautiful, touching moments. It’s built on relationships and the things that happen to us in relationships, and relationships gone wrong or the mistakes we make. So I hope they leave learning what not to do or feeling understood.

You know, this is a very extreme example of things that we all go through. So you leave feeling a little understood, like, ‘OK, I’ve seen these patterns in my relationship,’ and it makes you feel a little less alone. But again, do not try this at home.

 

IF YOU GO:

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 2

Where: 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, Fla. 33134

Cost: Tickets range from $15 to $53

For more information, visit actorsplayhouse.org/mainstage.html.

 

This article originally appeared in The Miami Hurricane on Oct. 15, 2014.

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