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Television Reviews : 'Corridos!' On Pbs

October 07, 1987|GREGG BARRIOS

"Y o soy el Corrido / I am the ballad, I sing of happiness, tragedies and sorrows. . . , " Luis Valdez as El Maestro tells us in "Corridos! Tales of Passion and Revolution" tonight on PBS (8 p.m. on Channel 24, 9 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15, 10 p.m. on Channel 50).

But there is little joy in these classic Mexican ballads refashioned by Valdez from his inspired musical stage play "Corridos!" Instead, in this one-hour TV adaptation, we are offered at best a Latino "Fairie Tale Theater" or, at worst, corridos as music videos, sung in Spanish with English dialogue.

It isn't a bilingual production when actors are forced boringly to repeat lyrics in English or to dispense with the translations altogether. Why weren't subtitles, which were effectively used on the stage, used here?

Another change is the casting of Latino superstars. Linda Ronstadt has Latino roots and an American accent, but her Spanish singing voice pales next to Lola Beltran, the queen of Mexican ranchera music.

In "Delgadina," one of the corridos, a "Cabaret"-style butler steals the focus from prima ballerina Evelyn Cisneros in a quirky pas de deux rendition of incest.

"El Lava Platos/The Dishwasher" is a Chaplinesque Latino (Daniel Valdez) eluding la migra (the INS) while the underlying serious issue of immigration sinks into silly soapsuds.

"La Soldadera" (The Woman Soldier) is more successful, but its three ballads about women in battle aren't translated, hence the viewer must rely on American journalist John Reed's gringo dispatches for their meaning.

Two questions: (1) Why are the Mexican males in these corridos insensitive macho oafs, child molesters or cowardly illegals? (2) Why aren't the names of known corrido composers credited--especially the legendary Pedro J. Gonzalez, who wrote "El Lava Platos"?

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