BWW Interview: Janet Dacal of THE BAND'S VISIT at Dallas Summer Musicals
An eternal love of music has guided Broadway Beltress Janet Dacal through a successful and extensive career. From recording alongside Grammy winning artists to winning her own Drama Desk Award for her role of Carla in IN THE HEIGHTS it's clear to see that Dacal brings her own spice and talent to her projects. With a debut album ready to hit the airwaves Ms. Dacal continues to enjoy every unexpected moment. Currently on the road with THE BAND'S VISIT, I got the chance to talk with the actress about her passion for music and portraying powerhouse women.
Name: Janet Dacal
Hometown: Born and raised in Los Angeles, California
Current Role: Dina in THE BAND'S VISIT
Lorens Portalatin: Thanks so much for chatting with me this afternoon! I'd love to start by talking about your early life and what led you to pursue music and theater.
Janet Dacal: I grew up in a Cuban household, both of my parents are from Cuba and with that comes a lot of music at home. My parents would listen to old Cuban standards while I was into musical theatre and my brothers were into rap and rock and there were all of these musical influences in my home. We found that music and food were huge ways to bring the family together. I've always had a strong pull towards it.
Lorens: You've had the opportunity to work alongside so many incredible artists like Gloria Estefan, what's that like?
Janet: It's pretty amazing being able to work with your heroes. I'm so lucky that that's been present throughout my life.
Lorens: Tell me a little bit about your character Dina. How does she fit into the story of THE BAND'S VISIT?
Janet: Dina is a cafe owner and an Egyptian band ends up getting lost in the town [Bet Hatikva] where she has her cafe. She takes in the musicians for the evening and the story is essentially what happens over the course of one night between the characters.
Lorens: How has playing dynamic women such as Alice, Eva Peron and Nina prepared you for Dina in THE BAND'S VISIT?
Janet: Well, all of those characters are very strong women and that is not without going for Dina as well. This woman is resilient, a fighter and worn a little bit by life and her circumstances. Coming up in the Latin community that is very much an example I had in my life. With the women in my life who had to leave their homelands and assimilate in a new country and learn how to be and how to survive. And essentially that's who Dina is so it's a very familiar prototype. And I'm astounded by her more and more every night.
Lorens: You stepped into the role of Dina after Chilina Kennedy, did you have the opportunity to work with the original creative team?
Janet: I did actually! I had two weeks in the studio in New York. One-on-one with the fantastic David Cromer, Director of THE BAND'S VISIT, and that was really fun cause it was a concentrated experience. It was such a pleasure and privilege to have that time with him as well as our choreographer, Patrick [McCollum]. They were so wonderful and helpful in sharing everything they new about their experience with the show and what they created. It was a huge luxury!
Lorens: You've performed in off-off Broadway productions, workshops, and Broadway shows. How has your experience on tour been unique?
Janet: It's really neat. I've gotta say that the cast is so fantastic and they make it super fun. We have a great team that's traveling with us. We make sure to see as much as we can in each town and experience the things that are special about where ever we are. This cast is so wonderful and there's a huge cultural presence within it. We do these things called "Shabbat Shats" on Saturdays and we get together on Fridays and do a little prayer and have a meal to share some time and it's really a beautiful cultural experience as well.
Lorens: Latino culture has so many important familial and communal aspects like music and food, have you noticed a lot of those similarities when it comes to THE BAND'S VISIT?
Janet: Yes, absolutely! And it's very very present. Because it's what I know it's made it very easy to step into. [The cast] has embraced me with open arms and it is a very beautiful experience.
Lorens: Your debut album was officially backed on Kickstarter as of January 3rd!
Janet: YES! I'M SO EXCITED!
Lorens: Congratulations! What should fans expect to hear from you on this album? Is it going to be different than the usual Broadway showtune?
Janet: Absolutely! That's not a bad thing, it's a very good thing! *laughs* I was raised with a very present musical upbringing and with music being so present in my house I am a jazz lover. This is a huge representation of who I am. It's the jazz standards with Cuban arrangements.
Lorens: OMG. SOLD! Take my money!
Janet: Yes, girl, YES! We're done with it. It's mastered and mixed and we'll hopefully be getting it out within the next week or two so be looking for that. It's so good. It is so good and I am just so proud. What we've created is something really special and I just can't wait for people to hear it. I can't wait!
Lorens: So, I know it's probably hard to pick favorites but are there any roles that you feel the most proud of?
Janet: Oh, that is so hard. That's so hard to answer! I've been very lucky to play some pretty incredible women. But you know there is a part of me that is loyal to my Carla in IN THE HEIGHTS. That whole experience was really special in so many different ways and I love her to bits and pieces.
Lorens: Speaking of IN THE HEIGHTS, have you seen a pre-screening of the upcoming movie?
Janet: I have not seen a pre-screening but a couple of us came in and recorded vocals for the movie. There was a lot of the OBC cast in there and that was a neat experience coming back and being able to sing those songs again. It's the best!
Lorens: One of Dina's lyrics in THE BAND'S VISIT is "Nothing is as beautiful as something that you don't expect" - what's one of your favorite unexpected moments you've experienced during this process?
Janet: Oh my gosh. Honestly it changes every night and I just joined the tour so I'm learning so much about [Dina]. This show is so deep and it's so layered and there's so much to well from and it changes every night with the audience.
Lorens: THE BAND'S VISIT is unlike a lot of Broadway musicals when it comes to large ensemble numbers. How have audiences responded to this?
Janet: They respond in their own way. Because the show is so special and unique it's a different kind of theatrical experience and it really makes you think. Things kind of hit you in waves with this show. I'll have conversations with people who have watched it who say, "Oh, that moment was so real. And so human." And that's been amazing to hear people's reactions as they experience the show. I think the music in the show is just so gorgeous and unlike anything we've ever heard on Broadway before and I think that's why people are so turned on to it. It really is like spice in your mouth. It's not like any sort of flavor we've had on Broadway before.
Lorens: What do you hope audiences take away from THE BAND'S VISIT?
Janet: I hope audiences take away that we are more alike than different.
Lorens: Before we go, what's a piece of advice you would give other artists who are trying to make it in theater and music?
Janet: Be who you are. There's enough space for everybody. And do the work. That's really it!
Lorens: Thank you so much for your time today and I hope you have a fantastic tour. I know you just started but there are going to be amazing things headed your way and I cannot wait to hear your album! We can't wait to have you in Dallas!
THE BAND'S VISIT is one of the most Tony-winning musicals in history, and it's making its North Texas debut February 5-23 at the Winspear Opera House, co-presented by Dallas Summer Musicals (Feb 5-16) and the AT&T Performing Arts Center (Feb 18-23).
To buy tickets go to www.thebandsvisitdallas.com.