Don Darryl Rivera: IN HIS OWN WORDS

Don Darryl Rivera:  IN HIS OWN WORDS

HOW is it like being on Broadway?

It’s so exciting here, there are so many opportunities. And to somehow represent the Filipino community on Broadway is really cool, too.

Was it how you imagined it to be?

And more. To make my Broadway debut in a principal role is really awesome. I keep saying it over and over again that I am so lucky to be here.  I really am.

What is a typical day like for you?

My daughter wakes me up at 6:30 in the morning, she’s eight months old. My wife and I get to spend the day together when I have an evening performance. We live in suburbia so we go to the zoo, or the mall or Target. Then I take the train to New York, it takes me about 20 minutes. I get ready in my dressing room, put on my make-up, work with my dresser who puts my costume on and a wig person who puts on my hair. Then we start the show.

Eight shows a week.

It’s hard. (laughs) But it’s doable. I eat between shows and take naps. I try to stay hydrated and do everything to be healthy. I mean I’m round, I’m healthy. I work out, warm up and make sure that my instrument is finely tuned for Broadway.

How is it behind the scenes?

To be able to sustain two and a half hours of burst of energy, you have to be kind of athletic so you really have to manage your stamina and work to be healthy so you can do the show eight times a week. In terms of glamor, it is glamorous. I have people who put my clothes on for me. That’s awesome. But the challenge is how to keep it fresh. That is probably the biggest question. We’ve done over a thousand performances here now. I’ve done over 900 performances of the show.

How is it working with Adam Jacobs?

He’s lovely. He’s so genuine and down to earth. When his sons came to the theater for the first time – we had potluck and I made pancit for the first time, thanks mom, and it turned out well. I just love this cast. We’re known as one of the most loving companies on Broadway.

That’s 1,000 shows and counting.

I’m pretty confident that I have done around 970 shows. I had laryngitis last month and I missed four shows. I took a couple of vacations as well. I haven’t missed a lot because I was sick. I take care of myself a lot.

We heard there’s a ghost named Olive in the theater.

Olive is a multo that lives in our theater. I believe in ghosts, and we Filipinos are very superstitious, right. I was onstage with Jonathan Freeman (the actor who plays Jafaar) and it was just the two of us and I thought he put his hand on my shoulder and I looked over at him and realized that no, it’s not him. I felt someone put their arm on my shoulder, and this was in front of 1,700 people, otherwise I would’ve screamed.

So how did you learn about Olive and her story?

We had a historian come to the theater and he talked about the theater’s history and Olive.

How do you keep healthy?

Lots and lots of water. I make sure that when I am outside of the show I am not yelling or screaming, I’m maintaining a healthy vocal technique so I am not whispering too much. I have a steamer that I use when I am really feeling it. I do everything right. I eat pretty healthy, not too much Chickenjoy. But yeah, I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What is it like originating a role?

Working on a new show, you need to be really flexible because a lot of the material will change. From Seattle to Toronto to Broadway, Aladdin changed vastly. My character changed 180 degrees when we were in Toronto.  We were doing previews then and the director and writer came to me and told me they wanted to do something different with Iago and they gave me new material. That night, we tried a new version of my character and right there and then, we knew what worked and where we needed to go.

To originate a role is huge. I am a part of Aladdin’s history, I am part of Disney’s history. When I was still a student studying theater, I’d open a textbook and see the picture of the original cast of Cats or Miss Saigon. I’d be in the textbook someday, maybe. That’d be great.

How’s Broadway Barkada?

I didn’t get to meet a lot of people outside Aladdin initially. Through fellow cast-member Joshua dela Cruz, I met Brian Jose of Broadway Barkada. I was so touched and moved by the amount of talent and courage and love of the Filipino community here. I had to step up my game, they’re all so good.

How is it like seeing fellow Filipino Americans on Broadway?

Lea Salonga has been a major part of Broadway history and it feels like we’re at the beginning of a bridge and Lea is on the other side waving us over and we have the opportunity now to represent our community in mainstream American entertainment.

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