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A Life...A Broad (Mi Vida en Jira)

Presented by In the Moment Productions at the Greenwich Street Theatre, 547 Greenwich St., NYC, Feb. 6-28.

Melanie Rey's autobiographical musical show is distinctive and has flair and brio (that's Spanish for oomph). It's basically a one-woman show, with the musicians playing bit parts as needed.

Rey ties her experiences to her efforts to cope with two of life's basics, which she sums up in a terrific opening—"men, career"—words she repeats using different inflections to convey different meanings. There is a third basic she also struggles with: her mixed feelings about her Latina heritage, evolving from hiding it to embracing it.

Rey performs her life as the Tex-Mex daughter of a single mother, recounting an early childhood with her extended family, life on the road ("en jira" means "on tour") with her mother, and later with her mother, a German-American stepfather, and a half-sister. Then it's on to college, travels through Europe, and "men, career."

Rey is vibrant, but what also keeps the show interesting is that it's not the usual quest to find a man or a litany of the ups and downs of dating. Rey's broader concerns—career and personal identity—give her story more complexity and make it very real.

Rey sings and dances throughout—rock, blues, flamenco, and "musica tropical." She speaks Spanish and English but peppers her Spanish with enough English words that non-Spanish speakers in the audience appeared to follow it.

Rey wrote the lyrics and Rob Arthur the music. Rich Mercurio is musical director. Jay Brandford, Jon Smith, Chris Smylie, and Marcus Wolf made up the band at the performance this reviewer attended. A film by Benjamin D. Lobato is used as a backdrop, but it's unnecessary.

Rey has an intriguing tale to tell. The show could probably go even bigger, but it's impressive as it is.

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