La Cage Aux Folles (Skylight Music Theatre, 2016)
“Skylight’s La Cage Aux Folles, a playful spectacle…if any musical cried out to be loved for its surface charms, it’s this one, which Skylight Music Theatre opened Friday at the Broadway Theatre Center to an appreciative audience.
Director-choreographer John de los Santos‘ staging of the drag club scenes was so excellent I occasionally found myself impatient with the show’s plot elements, eager to get back to La Cage.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Nobody would ever call ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ a holiday show, but as staged by Skylight Music Theater with a couple of magical stars, it’s a warm-hearted and very funny tale of what it means to be in a family – both the benefits and the responsibilities. Drag queen shows are widely known for the extravagance of the costumes and the outrageous nature of the performances, and this production, under the direction and choreography of John de los Santos and with costumes by Chris March, a refugee from television’s ‘Project Runway’, don’t disappoint.” – On Milwaukee
“We need ‘La Cage’ more than ever. Skylight’s production of the musical shows it’s still relevant — and tons of fun. There is constant diversion and amusement in the enchanting Cagelles (six, sometimes seven men imitating feminine movement and dancing, at moments spoofing movie queens and dominatrix stereotypes). They literally prance around the stage in enormous pheasant headpieces, handling massive bridal trains, scarves and other props and sight gags. The accomplished choreography and rapid-moving spectacle stem from John de los Santos.” – Urban Milwaukee
“The phenomenal production emphasizes ‘a little guts and lots of glitter’ to the delight of the audience. An especially talented group of Cagelles, seven male dancers, wears (Chris) March’s glamorous costumes, fitted ostrich or peacock feathers and flamingo sleeves, while dancing to director John de los Santos‘ choreography. Combined with an equally accomplished ensemble and seven piece orchestra, this creative team truly glitters all night long. – Broadway World
Le Comte Ory (Loftopera, 2016)
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
“Before the bisexual threesome, the kick line of cross-dressed nuns, the near-naked game of Twister, and te yogurt feast, LoftOpera’s production of Rossini’s riotous “Le Comte Ory” begins with a relative whisper.
Rossini’s overture is the work of a composer with a sly poker face. Restrained and short, it ends with quietly, with some demure plucks in the strings. It’s a sign of this young company’s skill that its orchestra, led on this occasion by Sean Kelly, is as persuasive in the score’s subtle moments as in its slapstick ones.
That slapstick is hardly stunted. The production at the packed-to-the-gills Muse warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, makes much hilarity, for one thing, of men scrambling for pink nun habits.
But the polish and panache of the staging, directed by John de los Santos, keep the farce from ever seeming amateurish. It’s a perfect union of New York’s most raucous and delightful opera company with one of the most raucous and delightful works in the repertory, a salacious at libidos run amok in the home front during the Crusades.
If the city’s audiences know “Comte Ory” it’s likely from a Metropolitan Opera production that opened in 2011. The high spirits in that Bartlett Sher staging often seemed forced, but in Bushwick the simplicity and immediacy of the presentation (seen last Saturday) make the jokes and gags land without thudding.
This modern-dress vision of the work could hardly be pared down further: some creaky platforms, more or less, a bench; and, for the sensationally sensual second-act trio, a four-poster bed. But for all the efficient bareness of the setting, the show has a brightly colored, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink exuberance. Before the overture, aerialists dressed in yet more nun habits twirl high above the audience, a reminder that this space spends much of its time as a circus school.
But never does it seem as if the company is mugging; the director and performers have created characters, not clowns. The climactic three-way, one of Rossini’s most inspired, shape-shifting ensembles, with lines tumbling over one another like lovers-throws off genuine sparks. This is less because everyone’s stripped down to underwear, than because the irresistible music is executed with such stylistic confidence.”
NEW YORK OBSERVER:
“…if you’re looking for opera as pure fun, there’s only one place to go: LoftOpera, currently in Bushwick, offers a raunchily delightful take on Rossini’s comic masterpiece, Le Comte Ory.
This presentation highlights the qualities that have in only three years catapulted the company to the front ranks of NYC’s opera troupes: ambitious musical values, scrappy but always inventive production style and, above all, an effortless sense of hipness-in the very best sense of that often-maligned term-in audience and performers alike.
Though the original libretto sets the action in the Middle Ages, with the menfolk of the village off fighting the in the Crusades, John de los Santos effortlessly resets the piece in a more or less modern milieu. (After all, nothing is more timeless than sex and war, right?) The Count held his prayer services sporting a shocking pink business suit hand-painted like the medieval Tres Riches Heures Du Duc De Berry with the Countess in a mob wife’s skintight black lace dress and spike heels.
Sets were minimal, but what went on in front of them was extravagantly funny. During one chorus, Ory slyly crossed behind a line of kneeling damsels, indicating a thumbs up or thumbs down which he preferred. After the band of “nuns” ransacked the castle’s wine cellar, they broke into a hairy-legged can-can with two of the hunkier henchmen stripping down for an X-rated game of Twister.”
“(LoftOpera’s) recent run of Le Comte Ory was perhaps the most ambitious of all, and it worked magnificently. The 31-member orchestra was conducted by Loft’s excellent music director Sean Kelly and the production was wonderfully directed by John de los Santos. Loft played the comedy seriously, which is the best way to mine its humor and get more laughs.”
“…Loft offered an unusually satisfying, immensely entertaining production of Rossini’s scintillating portrait of an inveterate seducer.
Director John de los Santos’ energetically appealing updated production happily eschewed over-the-top broad comedy and allowed (Thorsteinn) Arbjornsson to soften Ory’s predatory behavior by gently beguiling the smitten ladies of the chorus.
…de los Santos‘ wryly raunchy staging of Adele, Isolier, and Ory cavorting in the darkened bedroom was the evening’s inevitably delicious point. Its three performers sang soulfully while carousing with sweaty delight. It was even more fun than the earlier drunken saturnalia of Ory’s course male cohorts, also fetchingly garbed in pink nun’s habits. A hilarious bout of half-naked Twister followed by an enthusiastic kick-line of hairy, stomping religieuses brought the house down.
All these delights…made Loft’s Comte Ory one of the season’s most delectable evenings…”
Service Provider (Washington National Opera, American Opera Initiative, 2015)
“The crowd-pleaser was “Service Provider” by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos, about a couple whose anniversary dinner in a restaurant is compromised by the wife’s constant texting and the husband’s lover’s subsequent intrusion.”– The Washington Post
“Service Provider is a portrait of a modern marriage, played out in texts and asides. The duet “Every Box Checked” hits every note in the libretto by John de los Santos.
… [the character Dallas’] aria about the evening specials is a thing of beauty. The music by Christopher Weiss begins and ends with a ringing cell phone and that motif continues from the woodwinds to the piano to the xylophone in a surprisingly classic score. This was just hilarious beginning to end – turning an experience we’re all painfully familiar with into art.”– DC Metro Theater Arts
“Service Provider, by Christopher Weiss and John de los Santos, turned in a crowd-pleasing farce for the finale, replete with infidelity, bad cellphone etiquette, and a haughty waiter. [Daryl Freedman had another opportunity to shine here, well-paired with the warm baritone of Hunter Enoch, seen earlier this year in as Morales in WNO’s Carmen. Another Carmen alum, Rexford Tester, gamely took on the florid writing for the waiter character. “– Parterre box
“However, the best opera of the night was the last one, Service Provider. Watching people sing their text messages out loud is way more enjoyable than you would think, and Rexford Tester, who played the waiter Dallas, was delightful.”– Brightest Young Things
“Of the three short operas premiered, “Service Provider” was for us at least the most fully realized in terms of plot, character, action and music.
In celebration of their third anniversary as a married couple, Beau (Hunter Enoch) has taken his wife Autumn (Daryl Freedman) to dinner at a fancy restaurant they’ve both apparently enjoyed before. But a big problem in their relationship becomes obvious almost from the start. Autumn seems physically conjoined with her smartphone, casually and thoughtlessly interrupting a supposedly romantic occasion again and again by giving primacy to whatever garbage demands her immediate response. Beau’s justifiable irritation continues to grow.
It’s at this point that librettist John de los Santos’ sophisticated and efficient narrative really takes off, as two more key characters are introduced: Dallas (Rexford Tester), the skilled, but condescending waiter and a sexy single diner named Charlene (Mandy Brown).
It’s a testament to Mr. de los Santos’ skill that he’s able to compact this all-too-familiar urban tale—including its additional complications—into a functional and satisfying plot. While his characters are a bit of a cliché, this is intentional as we’re dealing with a well-crafted satire in this opera and not simply a standard story line.
But Mr. de los Santos also contributes in two additional key areas. In a short period of time, he crisply and efficiently defines each character, while piling on additional characters and complications so quickly and efficiently that he’s able to bring his story quickly to the boiling point leading to a decisive climax and a satisfying denouement. He also provides efficient dialogue and verse forms with plenty of vowels, giving composer-collaborator Christopher Weiss a load of great musical material to work with.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Weiss was in turn inspired to provide the snappiest, most sharply defined music of the evening, helping flesh out the opera’s characters and providing the best single set piece of the night in which Dallas—in rapid-patter Gilbert & Sullivan mode—delivers a hymn of praise to food, to his chef and to his superior tableside skills. As astonishing as it is funny, it’s written, composed and sung like a mini-version of Figaro’s famous aria, “Largo al factotum.”
Of the three mini-operas presented Wednesday, it’s clear at least to this reviewer that “Service Provider” comes the closest by far in terms of being ready for prime time. Neither its story nor its hair-trigger characters ever flag; its instantly recognizable narrative remains humorously on target; the opera’s pace has a way of auto-accelerating right on schedule; and perhaps most important, its score pumps up and defines each character and defines each plot twist in a way that proved satisfying to Wednesday’s large and appreciative audience.”– Communities Digital News
The Astronaut Love Show (The Kraine Theater, World Premiere, 2015)
“Sharply directed by John de los Santos, The Astronaut Love Show is well worth seeing for its great music, wacky stories, and fabulous cast .”– blogcritics.org
Great Scott (The Dallas Opera, World Premiere, 2015, San Diego Opera, 2016)
“(Joyce) DiDonato was a wonder. And thanks to director Jack O’Brien and choreographer John de los Santos, here acting and movement – everyone’s really – was dynamic and convincing.”- Classical Voice North America
“The choreography, by John de los Santos, does a wonderful job of the dance at the disastrous rehearsal and the finished opera.”- Theater Jones
“Choreographer John de los Santos devised a perfectly (and purposely) tacky pre-earthquake dance with four male dancers and a large ewer. …they were mesmerizing.”- San Diego Story
“The witty choreography of the campy ‘Fountain Dance’ (in which everything at first goes wrong) is the work of John de los Santos.”- Opera West
The Rose and the Knife (LoftOpera, 2015)
- Listed by The New York Times among “The Best Classical Music of 2015”
“this youthful company drew a youthful audience of 400 to a warehouse deep in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for a performance of — lieder? I was surprised, too, as I was by the effectiveness of the production, which wove together song cycles by Berlioz and Mahler into an affecting, excellently played and sung reflection on lost love..”– The New York Times
“…well over 400 people, a startlingly youthful group by classical-music standards, had gathered for a performance of two song cycles presented by LoftOpera, a company that has in just two years built a substantial following for its roving, intimate productions. This was my first LoftOpera experience, and the appeal is clear: solid musical values, a relaxed yet attentive vibe, and a sense of adventure.
That adventurousness didn’t extend to the choice of repertory — both Berlioz’s “Les Nuits d’Été” and Mahler’s “Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen” are established classics — but rather to the unusual way they were presented: not just staged but interwoven, with the two cycles, in different languages, trading off to form a narrative of lost, regretted love.
The songs never felt distorted to fit the narrative, with Dean Buck conducting a substantial, agile, well-balanced orchestra. But the two singers, directed by John de los Santos, were the main reason the 50-minute performance was consistently riveting.
It was a show deserving of its big crowd.”– The New York Times
“When I ventured into industrial-looking venue The Muse, I was dumbfounded to find the towering space crammed with a crowd of nearly 500. Of that number, the vast majority were young, hip, artsy types you’d expect to see at an avant-garde gallery or an off-off-Broadway show, but never, ever (in New York, anyway) at an opera.
Now, I’ve been following LoftOpera for a couple of years and this was by far the best-attended—and best-performed—offering so far. You wouldn’t think that a loft full of 20-somethings swigging artisanal beer would sit still for a couple of 19th-century song cycles, but they did. And at the end of the hour-long program, their cheers were as thunderous as those for an Anna Netrebko opening night at the Met. The show, entitled The Rose and the Knife, mashed up two song cycles about love and loss, Hector Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Été and Gustav Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen. The numbers, in French and German, respectively, were arranged to tell a troubling story of an ill-fated love affair. The action played out on a raised platform set midway through the space, with an abstract setting of burnished gold sculptural pieces suggesting alternately a bedroom and an outdoor area, perhaps a park.
This sort of concoction could easily turn coy, even silly, but it stayed firmly grounded by the sincerity and vocal security of the two soloists. Both artists moved with economical purpose, particularly in Ms. Ringles’ song “Absence,” staged by director John de los Santos as a tense reunion that threatened to tip over into violence. The production wisely didn’t try to relate much plot, but instead concentrated on highlighting the emotional high points of the delicately tragic tale.”– New York Observer
“…a provocative staging of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été and Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
Director John de los Santos fused his pair into an always involving theater-piece called The Rose and the Knife conjuring a wrenching portrait of a love affair doomed by conflicting needs and expectations. Rather than first do the six Berlioz songs followed by the four Mahler, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Ringle and baritone Joel Herold alternated them in a polyglot mélange which was initially jarring but eventually evolved into something quite moving.
This modern pasticcio proved consistently compelling, musically and dramatically gratifying. Just one more performance remains—miss it at your peril!”– Parterre box
Daughter of the Regiment (Arizona Opera, 2015)
“Arizona Opera just concluded its impressive 2014/15 season with a comically delightful and beautifully sung “Daughter of the Regiment.” It was stage director John de los Santos, in his Arizona Opera debut, that kept the opera’s pace brisk and crafted the richly amusing comic machinations.”– Curtain Up Phoenix
“It’s too bad you can’t rewind live performances. …it was the little things that director John de los Santos did that brought the biggest laughs throughout Saturday’s performance.”– Arizona Daily Star
The Golden Apple (Lyric Stage, 2014)
- Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2014 by The Dallas Morning News
- Named one of the best theatre productions of 2014 by the Dallas Observer
“…brilliantly, [Hayden] Clifton’s wordless Paris speaks through his sensuous dancing, choreographed by John de los Santos, which proves irresistible. Resistance is futile when it comes to The Golden Apple.” – The Dallas Morning News
“The Golden Apple, as performed by Lyric Stage, offers one of the most complicated, entertaining, and satisfying American musical theatre performances I’ve experienced in a long time. The high point of Act One is “Lazy Afternoon”, sung by Helen (who started the Trojan war by eloping with Paris). …when statuesque, comely blonde Danielle Estes explodes into full-on assertive, seduction mode as she croons “Lazy Afternoon” to her intended lover Paris (sometimes stretched out fully prone on the floor), one feels intense heat rolling off their exchange, a heat that in no way indicates woman as submissive sex partner. Choreography by John de los Santos and full engagement in the scene by both Estes and Clifton make this the most pleasurably steamy sex scene I’ve witnessed on stage all year.” – criticalrant.com
“Choreography by John de los Santos creates beautiful images here, as when Helen croons ‘Lazy Afternoon’ on her back to Paris as he drags her by her outstretched ankle across the stage floor.” – Dallas Observer
“John de los Santos comes up with a bouquet of choreography to fit the widely varied requirements of the divergent scenes.” – Theater Jones
“John de los Santos ably handles the choreography and musical staging, with terrific work with the Paris dances.” – DFW.com
Dogfight (Watertower Theatre, 2014 Regional Premiere)
- Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2014 by The Dallas Morning News
“…choreographer John de los Santos keeps the energy high.” – The Dallas Morning News
“Dogfight is the most beautiful musical you will see in Dallas this year. …the gymnastic choreography by John de los Santos giving it an irresistible energy.” – Dallas Observer
“WaterTower’s production is filled with take-your-breath-away moments. Choreographer John de los Santos, known in for his direction at Fort Worth Opera, gives the ensemble deceptively easy-looking and distinctive movement.” – Fort Worth Star Telegram
“…we’re transported from San Francisco twilight to Vietnam in bloody mid-battle, with John de los Santos’ choreography channeling a ’60s vibe throughout (the party scene is especially well executed). To quote Pasek and Paul, it’s all nothing short of wonderful.” – D Magazine
“Choreography by John de los Santos deserves its own paragraph. The Marines dance like you think soldiers would dance if soldiers danced and sang about their feelings. Movements are strong, athletic, masculine and sure, often using some variation of military formation and routine. The number in the club for the “Dogfight” contest is choreographed with period dance moves but gives each actor the right physicalization to reflect another aspect of their character. De los Santos has taken a cast of various dancing abilities and created exciting and effective numbers.” – thecolumnonline
“…de los Santos’ choreography, using all levels of Michael Sullivan’s enticing, 1960’s-style, stained-glass framed set, made the stage feel like it brimmed over with an entire company of testosterone-driven young Marines, not just a mere handful.” – criticalrant.com
Soho Cinders (Uptown Players, 2014 American premiere)
“Uptown Players American premiere offers a welcome and deliciously adult take on the fairy tale. John de los Santos [provides] smart direction and snappy choreography.” – The Dallas Morning News
“Uptown Players latest production, Soho Cinders made its U.S. premiere Friday night at the Kalita Humphreys Theater and it’s probably the cleverest and funniest musical you’ve never heard of or seen. John de Los Santos purposely directs Soho Cinders loosely allowing his performers to be playful yet natural. [The production] is one hell of a naughty ball. – Edge Dallas
“Soho Cinders spoofs the idea of fairy tales, by placing Cinderella in a tawdry, transgressive realm, and practically celebrates it. Soho Cinders pops with a lot of humor, clever songs and outrageously choreographed (Thank you, Director John de los Santos) dance numbers.” – examiner.com
The Pearl Fishers (Fort Worth Opera, 2014)
“Last night the Fort Worth Opera opened its annual spring festival with Bizet’s introductory and less beloved work. The risky choice demonstrated that, in the right hands, Pearl Fishers can work, and work spectacularly well at that. Stage director and choreographer John de los Santos once again proved more than capable when faced with a tough assignment. His previous directorial credits for the Fort Worth Opera include a delightfully edgy Mikado in 2011, and a psychologically rich Carmen in 2010. Working on the sleek, steeply raked stage designed by Roberto Oswald, Santos understands the algebra of moving individual bodies, as well as groups of entire groups for maximum effect. He has a gift for making thirty-odd people like look hundreds. He likewise succeeded in his genuine, integrated, and impressive choreography. That’s generally missing in operatic productions in these parts, even when specifically called for in the composer’s instructions.” – D Magazine
“The 2014 season in Fort Worth opened with Bizet’s Pearl Fishers, a rich score with a predictable plot that has given generations of stage directors headaches. Working with the sleek, streamlined sets designed by Robert Oswald, stage director John de los Santos wisely created an almost ballet-like production, appropriate in spirit for a 19th-Century French opera. A trained dancer himself, de los Santos kept the production lively with lavish crowd scenes and energetically choreographed dance sequences tat nicely enhanced Bizet’s score.” – American Musical Guide
“…a thrilling and gorgeous production. This is the best work that director/choreographer John de los Santos has done to date. He doesn’t overburden the opera and lets it speak for itself.” – Theater Jones
“Director John de los Santos adds a rarely-seen dance element, and his staging of the violence technically impressive — as is the palpable sex appeal of this engaging production.” – Dallas Voice
Carousel (Ash Lawn Opera, 2013)
“Carousel, which opened on Broadway in 1945, is theater of its time, with some definitely-not–politically-correct segments. But in the right hands, the Rodgers and Hammerstein score more than compensates. And it is in the right hands in Ash Lawn Opera’s production, now running at the Paramount.
Stage director and choreographer John de los Santos’ background includes both opera and musical theater, and it shows. There are differences between what kind of staging works for each, and it’s nice to see an opera company perform a musical with an understanding of the differences.
De los Santos gives us blocking and choreography that are both beautiful and functional within the context of the show and the confines of the Paramount’s stage, including the opening pantomime of the New England townsfolk at a carnival. The famous dance numbers in the show had to be re-created for a cast that features singers, and this he has done admirably. “– The Daily Progress
Roméo et Juliette (Des Moines Metro Opera, 2013)
” John de los Santos livened the ballroom scenes with effective choreography that was well executed.”– Opera Today
Green Sneakers (Fort Mason Center, 2013)
” …a haunting and poignant West Coast premiere. John de los Santos’ thoroughly considered staging offered a narrative within the music and text’s emotional diversity. Jesse Blumberg was frightening in his intensity…one has to be in awe at his stamina in performing seventeen very different songs in a setting that the director made both domestic and abstract.The four instrumentalists remained behind the singer almost until the end, but in key moments, de los Santos had them interacting with Blumberg, such as in the penultimate song, “Provincetown,” when the cellist gets up and moves to comfort the singer. Also on stage was a piano, with its open keyboard facing the audience, leaving us to wonder why it wasn’t being used. But after “Provincetown,” the musicians arose and quietly moved the grand piano to the front of the stage as if in a solemn ritual. …an intense, engaging and moving evening. “– Stage and Cinema
“Green Sneakers is a major achievement. On the theater’s small stage a desk and chair were arranged on the left close to the apron, and a mostly empty chair on the right. Between them the quartet was seated and behind them, a piano. Nothing else was needed; the music and Jesse Blumberg’s riveting presence filled the space. It would have been easy for Blumberg to have added a pathetic tremble to his handsome baritone, or to have played the long-suffering martyr. Instead, he played it straight, as it were, because that was all that was required. For this we must also credit John de los Santos’ tasteful direction and choreography, which allowed Gordon’s heart to speak directly through his music without additional baggage. “– San Francisco Classical Voice
María de Buenos Aires (Lexington Philharmonic, 2013)
“With ‘María, the Lexington Philharmonic outdoes itself. Director/choreographer John de los Santos has staged the nightmarish scenario with fluid and compelling theatrical imagination. One of the best performances yet by the region’s premiere arts organization.”– Lexington Herald-Leader
Cendrillon (Kentucky Opera, 2012)
“After opening its season with Tosca and following up with The Prodigal Son, the Kentucky Opera moves to the lighter side of the genre with Jules Massenet’s Cinderella. Directed by John de los Santos, the opera follows the storyline from the classic fairy tale most know and love. Backed by the Louisville Orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Plasson, the beautiful music and sumptuous costumes alone make “Cinderella” a delightful evening at the opera. But Cinderella is more than an archetypal love story that we already know will end with “happily ever after.” It’s legitimately funny.” – WFPL News
“…a shimmery, sweet confection. The overall production, directed by John de los Santos, was very pretty, conjuring up all those storybook pictures from the past — sumptuous costumes in muted pastels and shining fabrics, fantastical wigs, and simple but effective scenery.” – Louisville.com
Hello Again (Uptown Players, 2012)
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2012 by The Examiner
“Hello Again gives powerful witness to the power of the erotic. Uptown Players opened the area premiere of Michael John LaChiusa’s 1994 musical on Saturday. It’s a superb production, but it may be talked about more for its frequent nudity and sexual situations than for the fine singing and acting.
John de los Santos has choreographed many musicals and launched a national career as an opera director. He combines both functions in Hello Again, his Uptown debut as a director. He manages the many transitions imaginatively and has obtained strong performances from his actors.
At first it seems that he’s going to use dance as the primary erotic metaphor in Hello Again. The beginning of Leonard and Campione’s meeting in the initial scene includes some delicately sexy lifts. Then the pants (and underpants) begin to come down, the shirts and bras come off, and little or nothing is left to the imagination in all those sexual encounters. Toning it all down would probably undercut the basic premise” – The Dallas Morning News
“Endings can be tricky. Sometimes a successful narrative is ruined by an ending that betrays what came before it; or the tone could be muddled by a left-field directorial decision; or too often it’s soft-peddled to cater to audiences who prefer their endings happy and/or tidily wrapped up. And then there are those endings that give chills, as does Uptown Players’ production of the Michael John LaChiusa musical Hello Again. It’s chilling because, under John de los Santos‘ direction, there’s a visual image that perfectly captures the show’s cyclical theme, aided by the Kalita Humphreys Theater’s turntable stage. It’s at once thought-provoking and sentimental; the latter because of LaChiusa’s haunting music. De los Santos has ventured into the world of directing opera in recent years, and that delicate touch with letting the music guide the emotion serves him well here. The final two scenes, both hinging on Peterman’s Senator, are emotionally devastating.
It’s a brave choice of show for a company that has probably grown faster than any other local theater and has to think more about pleasing everyone. It’s definitely not the kind of box office/popular hit that preceded this production, The Producers. Uptown’s Hello Again is just as good, though, if not more satisfying. Whereas The Producers may have kept you laughing for a few days after, Hello Again will have you thinking for much longer.” – Theater Jones
“Hello Again is a fairly innocuous title, for what has to be one of the most astonishing, audacious, painful, funny and often profoundly touching musicals I’ve ever seen. Once again, John de los Santos has evinced genius in orchestrating a demanding, volatile story that might have foundered in lesser hands. Working with a scintillating, fearless cast, he continues to push the envelope, directing intense and intelligent shows that remind us what theatre can do.” – examiner.com
“Uptown Players does a marvelous job in staging Hello Again. There are no weak links in this cast of ten. All of this exuding talent is directed with brilliance by John de los Santos. He composes beautiful stage pictures that help carry the emotions. He understands that each era has its own inherent body language and movement. It is one of the best directed shows I’ve seen all year.
As far as his choreography goes, he does a wonderful job of creating moods. In fact, the musical doesn’t have many dance sequences but feels as if every stage cross, movement and gesture was choreographed. Though stylistically different then Bob Fosse, there is a precision to his direction that is reminiscent of the great master. Hello Again is a well-produced musical that Uptown Players should be very proud of.” – Pegasus News
“Uptown Players final production of its 2012 season is both an intriguing and somewhat hypnotic nearly sung through musical. Its subject matter is sexual trysts between the 10 characters that use the encounters to battle the voids of isolation and loneliness only to have those feelings amplified post-coital.
“Hello Again is billed as “An Adult Musical” and its onstage presentation is both graphic and frank. And frankly, it is most likely the most unusual show to appear in local theater this season. Director/Choreographer John de los Santos does some of his best work with Hello Again. He directs with both quiet restraint and confident boldness.” – Edge Dallas
“…while there’s a doleful quality to Hello Again — and there’s no denying that LaChuisa’s point of view lingers on the lack of sexual fulfillment — the remarkable achievement of this production is that it doesn’t leave you bitter or sad. There’s comedy, sprightly music (though LaChuisa ventures occasionally into atonal modernism) and engaging performances that perk up this still-serious riff on adult themes.
No segment is funnier than the 1960s, when a spoiled, adenoidal college kid feigns injury just so he can play doctor with his private-duty nurse, who cynically gets his rocks off only to leave him humiliated. That’s hardly the only tauntingly erotic scene. Director John de los Santos cleverly gives each decade its own sexual energy, it’s own “act” that shows the diversity of sex. There’s fellatio, cunnilingus, missionary, doggie, sodomy, even impotence — it’s as if the Kama Sutra got set to music.” – Dallas Voice
Sweeney Todd (Level Ground Arts, 2012)
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2012 by The Examiner
“John de los Santos (and Level Ground Arts producer Billy Fountain) have brought Sweeney Todd to their stage without mitigation or compromise. De los Santos has done phenomenal work with this brilliant musical. You can’t bring off this kind of volatile, satirical story without a keen understanding of human nature and delicate chemistry. What de los Santos has accomplished is breathtaking..” – examiner.com
“The highly acclaimed musical receives a thrilling staging by Level Ground Arts. Despite the morbid premise, the show remains infused throughout with comic elements. John de los Santos directs this production with a light-hearted tone and an eye for those comic elements.” – Theater Jones
“Walking into the KD Studio Theatre, the audience is greeted by a stark black & white set design by John de los Santos, complete with a chess board floor pattern. Many elements are combined into a wonderfully utilitarian design. The simplest pieces being tables and chairs, constantly rearranged by cast members as scenes changed, they work exquisitely to uphold the simple story-telling concept. [The production] has exceptionally haunting moments…overall, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Level Ground Arts is a fine production.” – thecolumnonline.com
“Level Ground Arts’ Sweeney Todd is bold and intimate. Director John de los Santos pulls riveting performances out of Strawbridge, Carpenter, Swarner and Music and seems full of ideas. Seemingly to create more performance space in the tiny KD Studio Theater, de los Santos (who also doubles as set designer) uses a series of tables which are rearranged between each number providing different layers and levels for his performers.” – Edge Dallas
“Level Ground Arts’ Sweeney Todd looks great. It’s easy to think of the bloody 1979 musical thriller as campy cannibalism set to music, but director John de los Santos chooses instead to draw out the story’s more haunting and tragic aspects. The set (also by de los Santos) and costumes (by Carver Upton) are leeched of color, giving the cast a deadly pallor that’s compounded by Bryan S. Douglas’ effective lighting design. The black-and-white checkered floor, especially, induces subtle reminders of Dario Argento’s visually whacked-out horror film Suspiria.” – D Magazine
Smokey Joe’s Café (WaterTower Theatre, 2012)
“It would be hard to complain that the production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe that WaterTower Theatre opened Monday lacked soul. It captures the passion of the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, as well as their wit, verve and, yes, sophistication. Choreographer John de los Santos keeps the nine performers moving along and gets the audience’s blood boiling.”– The Dallas Morning News
“Choreographer John de los Santos starts with the moves of the era—then cranks his able dancers to steroid level, heating up the cool driving beat of ‘On Broadway’ with fierce athleticism by the male quartet…a joyous and upbeat production.” – Theater Jones
“John de los Santos‘ work in Smokey Joe’s Cafe is the best choreography I have seen all year. There’s a lot of the expected ‘quartet’ choreography that people think of when they remember the groups of the late 50s/early 60s. Performances like those in ‘On Broadway’ and ‘Keep on Rollin/Searchin’, not to mention teaching Courtney Sikora how to shimmy, are all impressive. De los Santos doesn’t make the choreography easy on his performers, but he gets fantastic results.” – thecolumnonline.com
“Smokey Joe’s Café is sunny, frothy entertainment that caps a stellar 2011-2012 season for WaterTower Theatre in Addison. John de los Santos provides restrained and apropos choreography.” – Edge Dallas.com
“All the choreography by John de los Santos is fresh and tight.” – Dallas Observer
Spring Awakening (WaterTower Theatre, 2011)
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2011 by The Dallas Morning News
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2011 by The Examiner
- *Named the #1 Theatre Production of 2011 by Alexandra Bonifield of Critical Rant & Rave with recognition for Outstanding Choreography
- *Column Award Winner for Best Choreography
John de los Santos choreographs WaterTower’s Spring Awakening – Interview with Lawson Taitte for The Dallas Morning News
“The WaterTower Theatre production detonates with brilliant blinding force. Those who can face the material but wondered what all the fuss was about should head north and check out WaterTower’s best show in years.” – The Dallas Morning News
“…a triumphant salvo of a season-opener in this comprehensive artistic vision of a message play that rocks. Choreography by John de los Santos uses every inch of Christopher Pickart’s inspired set with whirling, flawlessly-timed movements.” – D Magazine
“Throughout ‘The Bitch of Living’, the other boys rise and join, adding their own anecdotes, stomping and thrashing and kicking like confounded colts in John de los Santos’ exquisite, virile, primal, choreography. They pound the stage. In ‘Totally Fucked’, the other kids jump up, then the two adults join in, happily shouting out their exasperation. It’s a spectacular, raucous moment, and you want to just leap out of your seat and dance too.”
“WaterTower Theatre is mounting the first local production, and if you haven’t seen it, do. John de los Santos’ stylized choreography gives the cast a lot to do, bringing a sense of motion to the internality of libidos gone mad.”
– Dallas Voice
The Mikado (Fort Worth Opera, 2011)
- *Named one of the Top Classical Music Events of 2011 by D Magazine
“On a more lighthearted note, FWO’s new Mikado, directed by John de los Santos, recast the Gilbert & Sullivan classic as a poke at modern American foibles. The staging was consistently lively and kinetic, abetted by the well-drilled chorus, which seemed to be having a wonderful time. The Fort Worth audience ate it all up.” – Opera News
“As a long-time opera goer who had just about given up on anybody anywhere having anything meaningful and new to say about Gilbert and Sullivan, I’ll admit I was won over the instant the curtain rose on a swirling world of corporate and political greed, desperately trendy consumerism, and zany game world colors and visual effects. In this Mikado, a business-suited chorus armed with cell phones constantly dances, marches, and sings its way across a landscape in which the wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo has become a heavily tattooed rock star, the maiden Yum-Yum is a tough, pink-haired bad girl, and the Mikado himself arrives on the scene, eventually, as a knife-wielding sushi chef. Watching and hearing this version of Mikado was not unlike the quasi-hypnotic experience of falling into a video game.
The bulk of the credit for the success of this show goes to the stage director, San Antonio native and TCU graduate John de los Santos, whose brilliant combination of literary insight and choreographic creativity has become a major force on the Texas operatic scene and is beginning to be felt on an even larger scale. Santos keeps his singers zipping through the high-tech dream world in a way that kept the audience delightedly grabbing for straws in this PG-rated comedy. – D Magazine
“This past week across the pond the Cambridge Union Society hosted a celebrity debate about whether or not classical music is still relevant, the Fort Worth Opera took up the ‘Yes’ side of the argument and answered it on the stage of Bass Hall Saturday night. From the opening, director, John de los Santos used the modern clothing and sets to get the audience chuckling, and the fun never stopped. For opening night there are always interesting theories for what sorts of operas companies should start with. Darren Woods and the Fort Worth Opera company put forward quite the argument that you start by giving people the most fun you could have at an opera. After last year’s incredibly fun presentation of Elixir of Love (which I saw multiple times), I didn’t think there would be anything to top it, but The Mikado blows it out of the water. In typical fashion, de los Santos adapted the lyrics of ‘Mi-ya Sa-ma,’ ‘A More Humane Mikado,’ and The List Song, and every single one of the adaptions hit home with the audience. The List Song particularly hit home, and the company even took some mild political risks by poking fun at oil tycoons (this is Texas you know) and high gas prices, ‘birthers,’ and even ‘The Donald.’ It could be one of the longer performances of The List Song as the audience kept interrupting with guffaws and applause; a great problem to have. The modernizations worked extreamly well to drive home the humor and the contemporary political touched sent it over the top. The packed Bass Hall erupted with both laughter and applause throughout the evening.” – examiner.com
“Director John de los Santos wittily modernizes the Gilbert and Sullivan parody of Victorian Japan — and, actually, England. His reworking of Ko-Ko’s list of things that never would be missed got plenty of guffaws Saturday at Bass Performance Hall, opening the four-production Fort Worth Opera Festival. A flashy light wall and a couple of shoji screens supply all the setting that’s needed. Both the Mikado and Katisha wheel around on Segways, chorus men are businessmen in identical suits, cellphones stuck to their ears, and the chorus girls accessorize sailor dresses with Hello Kitty backpacks. In its zany way, this all makes sense.” – The Dallas Morning News
“All happy expectations were fulfilled big-time by a youthful and athletic cast in this bold, witty and joyously performed production. Director John de los Santos has great fun throughout, and before the evening’s done we’ve seen some wonderfully imaginative costumes and inventive staging. The best single piece of business is the grand entrance of the Mikado and Katisha on matching Segways, buzzing stage right and left in widening circles. Marvelous! You have to see it.” – Theater Jones
“Fort Worth Opera’s The Mikado, under the direction of John de los Santos, completely overhauls the antediluvian material and polished it into a side-splitting, splendid production. The cast spoke the dialogue in more modern speech patterns than the typical G & S formula, and emerged fresh and full of laughs. The choreography, also by De los Santos, was another visual delight that pushed this piece into our times. There were so many surprises all night that popped up and had the audience roaring in laughter. You should NOT miss this production.” – thecolumnonline.com
“Though based on the original stage piece, FWO’s The Mikado is a high-tech Broadway-style romp. Opening the company’s fifth annual festival, the show was about as far out as it could be without blowing up the theater. The traditional Japanese setting has been replaced by a youthful, contemporary fantasia. The back wall was illuminated by Versa TUBE, a lighting system that comprises 175 one-meter-long horizontal tubes. It was originally created for arena rock concerts, and a mix of visual images were specially developed for the production. The cast, full of mostly young, emerging talent, was sharp, and the principals responded with energy and style to director John de los Santos’ snappy staging. FWO’s production of The Mikado may not be to everyone’s taste, but the audience here was certainly turned on.”
– Fort Worth Weekly
Don Giovanni (Dallas Opera, 2010)
“The minuet, accompanied to some of Mozart’s most famous music, becomes a madcap but meticulously complex tango, beautifully choreographed by John de los Santos.”
– D Magazine
“As choreographer, John de los Santos also participates in the mash up of styles that this exciting production has. His choreography is lyrical, classical, with a dash of flamenco. ” – Pegasus News
Closer To Heaven (Uptown Players, American Premiere, 2010)
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2010 by The Examiner
- *Readers Voice Award for Best Musical by the Dallas Voice
“…special note must be taken of Closer to Heaven’s ensemble dancers, who, thanks to de los Santos’ spell-binding and dangerous choreography, conspire in a tangle of tortured, precise post-Gen-X devil dolls, to imbue the show with a rapacious carnality.”– Pegasus News
“John de los Santos choreography puts this cast through a major workout for two hours. It is very athletic, and used an array of very intricate designs and formations. Visually they were quite exciting to watch as the ensemble danced their hearts out.”
Before Night Falls (Fort Worth Opera, World Premiere, 2010)
- *Named one of the Top Ten Classical Music Events of 2010 by theatrejones.com
“There are many striking scenes…the dance sequences were erotic beyond Thomas Mann’s wildest Venetian dreams in their realization by John de los Santos.”
– Gay City News
“Credit as well choreographer John de los Santos for tastefully but unflinchingly expressing the erotic discovery of gay romance in a way foreign to most opera — hell, most theater, period. For courage alone, Before Night Falls would warrant attention; happily, it wins on the merits of its production as well.” – Dallas Voice
“… the audience rose to its feet at the conclusion for repeated cheers and bravos for the entire cast as well as the superb production team…a sensual and beautifully choreographed ballet on the beach by John de los Santos” – Opera-L
“John de los Santos’s staging of the extensive dance sequences distilled the essence of innocence, sensuality, and decadence present in Arenas’ narrative.” – D Magazine
Altar Boyz (Uptown Players, 2009)
- *DFW Critics’ Forum Award Winner for Best Choreography
- *Named one of the Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2009 by the Dallas Voice
“…wonderfully manic choreography by John de los Santos…an exciting, superbly entertaining evening.” – The Dallas Morning News
“John de los Santos’s dazzling choreography was a flawless fusion of pop, jazz and hip-hop that had these performers dancing up a storm… it’s hyper speed fast, eye popping, and really antes up the energy level of the show.” – thecolumnonline.com
“The choreography courtesy of John de los Santos prove that these guys have put in more than their fair share of rehearsal hours to portray the tight-knit group. We saw the original cast production off-Broadway during the musical’s original run and we must say that the Uptown Players version is even better.” – Pegasus News
“de los Santos’ choreography is fresh, clever, and sexy, bringing the show’s lyrics to life.” – examiner.com
“…full of big laughs and joyful noise…the boys dance like the devil in sweaty, nonstop choreography by John de los Santos that cleverly works in references to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies,’ Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’ the volcano number in Showgirls and a certain talent contest on The Brady Bunch.“ – Dallas Observer
“…guiltily entertaining…boundlessly energetic dancing, slyly choreographed by John de los Santos. He plays up the comedy with dance steps that make hilarious illusions to ‘Thriller,’ the Robot, Britney and more.” – Dallas Voice
Carmen (Fort Worth Opera, 2009)
“Stage director John de los Santos whipped up plenty of motion and heat.”
– Opera News
“Fort Worth Opera’s annual festival has launched in grand form with a Carmen in a class with that of any other first-rate troupe one might care to mention.”
– Fort Worth Business Press
“A thrilling Carmen…a lively staging. Director John de los Santos has certainly animated the Georges Bizet opera.” – The Dallas Morning News
“Advance publicity for the Fort Worth Opera’s production of Bizet’s Carmen promised a “traditional” production. However, the implication of ‘traditional,’ for some of us at least, means stodginess and deliberate adherence to old ideas. That doesn’t begin to describe the level of directorial insight and imagination displayed in this production. Director John de los Santos (who also choreographed several dance sequences) discovered multitudes of innuendos, subtexts, cross-relationships and possibilities—most obviously in the words, but frequently in the music as well. In decades of opera going, I’ve never seen a performance of Carmen that realized the dramatic possibilities of the piece so well.” – Theater Jones
” …a stark, unflinching look at working-class life in 19th-century Spain, at least in the eyes of stage director John de los Santos. Gone was the polite fiction of Carmen as a good girl playing bad that we got years ago. An almost film noir atmosphere hung over the production, a sense of impending doom. Even the goings-on in the gypsy hideout that sometimes have a light-hearted camaraderie, had a dark, decadent feel. The sold-out house loved the whole evening, hollering itself hoarse at the end.”
– Fort Worth Weekly
Amahl and the Night Visitors (Fort Worth Opera, 2008)
“…choreographer John de los Santos gave a peasant dance of austerity and beauty.”
– Fort Worth Star Telegram
Cosi Fan Tutte (The Living Opera, 2008)
“The Living Opera’s version of Cosi fan tutte offers musical pleasures and a distinctly modern view of this old story of war between the sexes. As up-to-date as the latest iteration of Apple’s iphone…this is a sexier than usual Cosi, and it emphasizes the wild life of the frat milieu.” – The Dallas Morning News
Italienisches Liederbuch (Voces Intimae, 2008)
“There are tender, romantic moments in these miniatures, but also rages and scorching sarcasm. With only four black chairs as props, director John de los Santos staged the songs’ laments and harangues as vivid theater, with entrances and exits and even slamming doors.” – The Dallas Morning News
Orpheus & Euridice (Voices of Change, 2008)
“Director John de los Santos provided just the right elements. His choreography reflected Mr. (Ricky Ian) Gordon’s musical moods and made the story line clear.”
– The Dallas Morning News
The Mikado(Seagle Music Colony, 2008)
“… sly, imaginative, very humorous and sophisticated…(de los Santos) maintains continuity throughout the two acts and slips into the traditional sections gracefully. He skillfully blocked the more than 23 players imaginatively…and provided rowdy choreography.” – Daily Gazette
The Medium (Seagle Music Colony, 2007)
“Atmosphere abounded in this production, with even some chills and goosebumps. Stage director John de los Santos kept the pace steady.” – The Daily Gazette (Schenectady)
Anything Goes (Seagle Music Colony, 2006)
“Stage director/choreographer John de los Santos gets the credit for putting this whole frenetic assemblage together. Anything Goes needs a lot of choreography, and de los Santos produced some fast-paced toe-tapping from a group of vocal performers who are accustomed to somewhat more sedentary activity on stage.” – Times of Ti
South Pacific (Seagle Music Colony, 2005)
“…the lively choreography, particularly well executed in the ‘Dame’ scene was the work of John de los Santos.” – The Lake George Mirror