Don Darryl Rivera Soars as Iago in Aladdin

Don Darryl Rivera Soars as Iago in Aladdin

BROADWAY’S FUNNY MAN

There is a bounty of Filipino-American talents on Broadway these days—two of them even playing lead roles: Ali Ewoldt as Christine Daae on “The Phantom of the Opera” and Adam Jacobs as the title role on “Aladdin.”

When Filipinos from other parts of the globe visit New York and have a few days (and some Benjamins) to spare, we proudly recommend watching musicals where there are Fil-Ams on the cast.

There’s Karla Garcia on “Hamilton;” Pia Hamilton on “Lion King;” Gabby Gutierrez and Jaygee Macapugay on “School of Rock.” This March, we’ll add more as Broadway welcomes back “Miss Saigon,” with Eva Noblezada, Jonjon Briones, Rachelle Anne Go and about a dozen more Fil-Ams.

On the musical “Aladdin” alone, there are five Fil-Ams in the cast. Aside from Adam, there’s Joshua dela Cruz, Angelo Soriano and Bobby Pestka as part of the company.

Then there’s Don Darryl Rivera, a principal cast member who plays the role of Iago, which he originated in Seattle.

Before opening on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 2014, Aladdin premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2011. It went through several regional and international productions a year later, including one in the Philippines where Tom Rodriguez played Aladdin and Aiza Seguerra took on the role of Genie.

Don Darryl considers himself blessed and lucky that the people behind Disney liked his performance and brought him along to Broadway where he is now living his dream.

“This is the dream. I majored in theater and to be on Broadway is the pinnacle. It’s where you want to be,” he told the Asian Journal.

Prior to this, he and his wife Kate (who also works in the theater as a stage manager) had a long discussion about this topic. If Broadway comes, they will take the opportunity.

He was a junior in high school and was watching Ben Vereen on a DVD of “Pippen” when he realized he wanted to be an actor. It helped a lot that he was also playing the lead role in that musical for their high school production.

“This is it, this is exactly what I wanted to do,” he shared, reminiscing that momentous event.

Now that he’s part of the industry, he realized the importance of support and self-confidence because the powers that be can be ruthless sometimes.

“I have the right amount of support and perseverance—here, you hear the word ‘No’ a lot when you go to auditions and see agents. My parents made their way here, how can you not have courage after realizing what they have done for us,” he added.

His parents Danny and Dora moved to the United States in the 70s. His dad is from Pasay City, mom is from San Carlos City in Pangasinan.

“They wanted to come here because they wanted to have a family and they wanted us to have a great life. I can’t thank them enough for providing for the family and giving us the courage to be who we wanted to be,” he said.

Don Darryl’s dad was one of the founders of Kultura, a Filipino folk dance group back in Seattle. His parents wanted him to have that exposure on Filipino culture. They would make him learn Tagalog and make him sing Tagalog songs and they would teach him the dances.

“We would perform at events and community gatherings. I learned how to do tinikling and itik itik. It was invaluable. I am so proud to be a Filipino-American, I really am,” he shared.

“I am the son of immigrant parents and I am not an engineer, a doctor or a nurse. I’m an actor on Broadway. There were times when my mom would go ‘When are you going to get a job?’ and I tell her ‘I’m already working as an actor.’ Now that I’m on Broadway, she never asked that again,” Don Darryl added laughing.

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