If you don’t think that Tango music is intoxicating, perhaps you should read no further. Go to "Cats." Go directly to "Cats." Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
If, however, you share my feeling that no music enters the bloodstream more swiftly and bewitchingly than tangos, you must see Luis Bravo's "Forever Tango."
Fifteen years have passed since "Tango Argentino" reawakened interest in the dance born in the bars and brothels of Buenos Aires a century ago. The earlier show was exciting because much of its cast brought maturity and experience to steps that are sensual but elegant, erotically charged but rigidly precise.
The cast of "Forever Tango" is much younger. If the earlier show conveyed the melancholy and worldliness of tango, the younger dancers project its galvanizing electricity.
The dances in the first act provide, in effect, a history of the tango, but you don't need annotation to respond to the torrid climate of the music and the stunning way the dancers perform steps of dizzying intricacy.
Interestingly, as in "Tango Argentino," the most emotionally riveting dancing is done by an older man, Carlos Gavito. The intensity of feeling between him and his sultry young partner, Marcela Duran, is extraordinary.
If some of the dancing lacks this emotional component, it all has great libidinal sizzle. Sometimes the steps seem repetitive, but the execution is invariably dazzling.
Much of the excitement comes from the music itself, much of it by that genius who spent many years here largely unbeknownst to us, Astor Piazzola. An onstage orchestra of four men, on bandoneon (the Argentine accordion), strings, keyboard and a superb pianist, plays the music exhilaratingly.
Stunningly costumed and lit, "Forever" is an evening of sheer pleasure.
''Forever Tango,'' which opened on Thursday night at the Walter Kerr Theater, will probably be considered a must-see show by fans of that popular, sexy Argentine dance. Ordinary mortals may find the evening an enjoyable summer entertainment with terrific music and considerably cruder dances. But the superficiality of ''Forever Tango'' suggests a touring show designed to cash in on the international tango craze.
Fast-paced and gaudy, the show lacks the earthiness of ''Tango Argentino'' and the savage elegance of ''Tango X 2,'' though the handsome Walter Kerr lends a much-needed intimacy to the genre. The evening begins with a truly terrible vignette in which an elderly pimp gives out the night's assignments in a late-19th-century Argentine brothel, evidently a time and place in which Wonder Bras and flossy Dynel wigs were all the rage.
''Forever Tango'' makes a few more required stops along the tango-history route beloved of many of these shows, moving on to ''suburbia'' and ''Paris'' before finally settling into the safer and more engaging territory of lust and carnality, as the program notes put it.
In typical tango-show fashion, the evening picks up considerably during the second half, when most of the dancers abandon stock moves and give their numbers a more personal twist. The most distinctive performers are the hard-dancing comic team of Claudia Mendoza and Luis Castro, who impersonate a hapless matron and her overeager aging suitor. Ms. Mendoza has an unforgettable face that looks lived in but gleams with piquant, rueful charm. Mr. Castro courts her with body-skimming hands and scampering feet that lead her smoothly across the stage and back again.
Nora Robles and Pedro Calveyra are the daredevil acrobats of the group, with Laura Marcarie and Carlos Vera dancing with the unerring push of a guided missile. Cecilia Saia and Guillermo Merlo add a note of cool, with extra heat provided by Karina Piazza and Jorge Torres in a dance cast completed by Miriam Larici, Diego DiFalco, Carlos Gavito, Marcela Duran, Gabriel Ortega, Sandra Bootz and Carolina Zokalski.
Carlos Morel is the genial solo singer. The solo violinist was Humberto Ridolfi; the pianist was Fernando Marzan. The unofficial star of the show is Lisandro Adrover, the conductor and lead bandoneon player. With his drooping eyes and head, topped by a dandelion fuzz of hair, Mr. Adrover is hilariously world-weary, his conducting arm waving up into dim light with all the hopeless energy of a drowning man. And when the 11-man orchestra surges into ''Jealousy,'' one might be dancing on a star-dappled promenade overlooking the sea in a lush movie musical.
For all of its obvious single-mindedness, "Forever Tango" accomplishes what it sets out to do, seducing an audience with its infectious and fervent tempos, its haunting Latin rhythms and, most certainly, the masterful techniques of its seasoned dancers. There are some languid orchestral interludes, which tend to slow the pace to a crawl, as do a couple of songs ardently crooned by an Argentine troubadour, but the entertainment, conceived and staged by Luis Bravo, is mesmerizing when it's dancing.
With musicians seated onstage for the entire show, against the single backdrop of a starry evening sky, dancing couples glide in from the shadows of the night. Each couple offers distinctive variations on the intricacies of the tango, an immigrant-inspired dance born over a century ago in the back rooms and saloons of Argentina. From lightning-quick steps to dramatic pauses and dips, the partners move with studied grace and precision, dominated by intense, steely-eyed expressions. The women coil around their men like serpents, and kick out with effortless leggy extensions.
"Forever Tango" has enough style and sophistication to arouse the savage heart, but it lacks the variety, color and panache of its illustrious predecessor, "Tango Argentino," which came along to celebrate the centennial of the tango in 1985.
Still, each specialty number is marked with its own sexy flavoring and a decided edge of danger. Every dance tells a little story, and if the program notes are not consulted, one can easily summon an exotic personal scenario in the mind. Carlos Gavito as an old aristocrat expresses his obsession with a young woman. The swift humor of Guillermo Merlo and Cecilia Saia is particularly refreshing, as is the spirited athleticism of Miriam Larici and Diego DiFalco in the knockout penultimate dance.
All of the dancers provide their own particular dazzle, but Jorge Torres and the alluring Karina Piazza seem to define the sense of romantic involvement. Sadly, there are but three ensemble numbers. One of the most visually descriptive sequences takes place in a smoky brothel and projects a dark Brechtian landscape. The most well known of tangos, "La Cumparsita," is elegantly expressed by three couples, the ladies smartly highlighted in burgundy gloves and scarves.
The orchestra is led by an impassioned Lisandro Adrover, who plays a bandoneon, similar in principle to an accordion but with a more limited range. Instrumental segments feature solos for the pianists and violinist, the most persuasive statement being the familiar "Jealousy."