BWW Interview: I CAN DO THAT, Hector Guerrero's Sojourn Across A Chorus Line
The Welk Resort Theatre, located at the Welk Resort in San Diego, launches the Pulitzer Prize/Tony-winning A Chorus Line as part of its 39th Season. Director/Choreographer Hector Guerrero makes his debut on the Welk Resort stage with this beloved musical created by Michael Bennett in 1975 with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Ed Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood Jr and Nicholas Dante. Guerrero spoke about his evolution as a dancer, choreographer, director as well as how this musical speaks to him.
"I grew up in a Mexican household and we only had Spanish language television and radio. I remember one time as a kid the TV was on and Singing In The Rain was playing. It was dubbed in Spanish, but the songs were all in English. I have never seen anything like this. I only knew traditional Spanish dancing."
Guerrero witnessed Gene Kelly for the first time that day. "He was such a masculine dancer. It just stopped me. I wanted to do that. That was the introduction to dance for me.
"I wasn't able to study dance till my first year of college. I was the oldest male in a Mexican family, so I had to hide my love of dance from my family for years. It was my female cousin who wanted to take a dance class. We were in our first year of college. I decided to start with ballet since I knew that was the foundation. My cousin wound up dropping and I stayed.
"I started to look at other styles of dance. Ballet was my first love. But because I started so late, I knew my chances of being a pro ballet dancer was small. Since I also sang, I had been in a choir going to church as a child, I figured, let me look at other avenues like musical theater. I took jazz and tap. Tap was the hardest to learn due to all the ballet I had taken. Tap is the opposite of the other styles, but if I was going to work in musical theater, I needed to work on my tap skills. It wound up paying off. One of the shows I got was 42nd Street. I got to tour the United States and Europe. One of my friends had been the dance captain. She gave me moves and I was able to do my audition. I was so out of my element and had to work so hard. But it opened so many doors after I perfected it. The more styles [you accomplish], the more hireable you are.
"Becoming a choreographer just kinda happened [for me]. I had a passion for dance. I would go to rehearsals even when not called. I was so hungry to learn. When I was on the tour of West Side Story, I was going to every rehearsal. The Sharks weren't in the play as much as The Jets but I wanted to learn. When a dance captain role opened, they offered it to me. Jerry Robbins [who directed the production] saw that potential in me. I dance captained the show and became a swing. I would assist choreographers, and when they were too busy, they started recommending me."
Guerrero took what he learned as both a dancer and choreographer and eventually began helming productions himself. "I got to work with great directors, like Jerome Robbins in West Side Story and Hal Prince for Evita. These are the greatest directors in Broadway history. I would watch them work. I wanted to pass on their [expertise and] I wanted to grow as a person. I wound up choreographing a show I had never done before, My Fair Lady at the Candlelight Pavilion. At first, I didn't even want to choreograph it because there is not much dancing. I decided I should take it because it will challenge me on staging, which is as important as choreography. There was such story telling in that show. It led me towards wanting to direct.
Guerrero has choreographed and/or directed A Chorus Line several times, including assisting Baayork Lee, who had played Connie in the original Broadway cast, in the Hollywood Bowl staging. "A Chorus Line is one of the greatest musicals of our times. It has a message about tenacity, overcoming rejection, and how rejection makes us stronger. We need such tough skin. It's about not regretting what we do. [The song] "What I Did For Love" says it right there.
"As a choreographer, Michael Bennett was a genius. The way he choreographed was so cinematic. It makes me want to choreograph seamlessly. I think of [Bennett's 1982 hit musical] Dreamgirls. It was like watching a movie on stage. The action kept going and never stopped.
"[In A Chorus Line], you look at the show and there are no blackouts. It keeps going, one sequence to the other, everything is connected. Everyone can relate to this show. We have the same story; we just see it in a different way."
Though Guerrero has worked on this musical several times, there is something special about the Welk Resort production. "The great thing about this cast is NO single actor has done this show before, which is rare. It feels so new and fresh. No one is bringing any [baggage from past productions.] It gave us a chance to explore the characters. We're starting from [scratch] and sharing the experience. A lot of these actors relate so much to their character. We all want to be loved and accepted. That never changes. [This cast is] so young. They're super talented. It's nice to be in a room where you have true triple threats.
A Chorus Line will be playing at the Welk Resort Theatre from Jan 10 to March 22. Tickets can be purchased at https://sandiegotickets.welkresorts.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=30
Photo credit: Jennifer Edwards