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March 12, 2000
'Selena Forever' performers
prepare for opening night
By Ellen Bernstein
|The choral and
dance ensemble of ‘Selena Forever’ rehearses ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,’ an original
line dance that’s catchy enough to ignite another Macarena-like dance craze.
ANTONIO - To the bouncy rhythms of “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” performers step lively
in a line dance that could one day see Broadway and sweep the country in a Macarena-like
Until that time, it’s practice, practice, practice. Choreographer
Kevin Patterson drills this song-and-dance ensemble in the days remaining before
a stage musical based on the life of Selena Quintanilla Perez opens in San Antonio.
segments with the cast of
Leading lady "Selena", from New York, talks about the challenges
of the role.
Liza, playing Selena's older sister "Suzette", from San Antonio, talks
about rehearsing in her hometown.
Playing the young Selena, from Los Angeles, California, talks about balancing
school and rehearsals.
Singer, dancer and understudy for Selena, Port St. Lucie, Fl., talks about opening
Singer, dancer, narrator from San Diego, explains how she got the part.
Forever,” a Broadway-bound musical with a Latin-pop cumbia beat, runs March 21
through March 26 in San Antonio, March 28 through April 2 in Dallas, and April
5 through April 7 at Selena Auditorium in Corpus Christi. A Texas and California
The creators of the $2 million touring musical are aiming for the
same broad appeal the Tejano star achieved in life and in death, said New York
producer Tom Quinn.
They are banking on a barrio-to-Broadway phenomena that doesn’t lose
touch with its roots, said director Bill Virchis, whose credits include Los Angeles
productions of “Zoot Suit” and “Evita.”
And what better way to immerse the far-flung
cast in the culture than to rehearse in Tejano’s front yard?
That’s the thinking behind the decision to rehearse at Edgewood
Academy of Communications and Fine Arts, a performing arts magnet school on the
predominately Hispanic west side of San Antonio.
The Hispanic cast members from Los Angeles, New York and Miami have
visited area rodeos and Tejano clubs, where their expert footwork often stops
It’s a cultural immersion not lost on ensemble singer and dancer
Amanda Avila, 18. “It’s cool to come here. We’re in a total Tejano place,” said
the San Diego-based actress.
Liza Ybarra, who plays the part of Selena’s sister, Suzette, is back
at school, literally. She attended Edgewood. “I did a lot of theater in high school.
… I feel lucky because I know all the teachers. The janitors bring me stuff every
Performing arts students, dancers and theater majors have gotten
to watch rehearsals and learn about real-life productions.
“It’s exciting. It’s different,” said Andrea Garza, 17, a senior
at Edgewood who plans to be a filmmaker. “It gives us an opportunity to learn
more about the arts.”
At dance rehearsal, Patterson, in a soaked shirt, cargo pants and
backwards baseball cap, critiques the ensemble. He demands louder vocals and sharper
accents on the neck turns and hand gestures.
“Can you hear me on the bidi’s?” a male dancer shouts to a wave of
laughter in the room.
Hardly any of the dancers have the thin, long-legged, chiseled physique
of Broadway chorus dancers.
Actress Avila credits frijoles and a bit of Latina pride.
“We’re real Latinas, not like those stick-thin women,” said the shapely
dancer of average height and muscular build. “Here, they just tell us to eat healthy
and firm up.”
Avila said she is excited about being a part of the original cast
of a Latino-directed, Latino-written and Latino-acted musical.
| Tour Schedule
(dates and venues are subject to change)
100 Auditorium Circle
San Antonio, Texas 78207
Ticketmaster: (210) 224-9600
March 28-April 2
Music Hall at Fair Park
909 First Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75210
Ticketmaster: (214) 373-8000
Bayfront Plaza Convention Center
1901 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Corpus Christi, Texas 78401
Ticketmaster: (361) 881-8499
April 13-April 16
Don Haskins Center
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas 79968
Ticketmaster: (915) 544-8444
April 18-April 23
615 Louisiana Ave.
Houston, Texas 77208
615 Louisiana Ave.
Ticketmaster: (713) 629-3700
April 25-April 30
5400 N. River Road
Ticketmaster: (312) 559-1212
May 2-May 7
Arizona State University Campus
Phoenix, Ariz. 85287
Ticketmaster: (480) 784-4444
May 9- May 14
Wilshire at Western
Los Angeles, Calif.
Ticketmaster: (213) 480-3232, (714)-740-2000, (619) 220-8490
June 13-June 18
San Diego Civic Theatre
3rd and B Streets
San Diego, Calif. 92112
Ticketmaster: (619) 570-1100 or (619) 220-TIXS
Other dates to be announced
Angeles-based director Bill Virchis said the Hispanic community is just beginning
to identify with ethnic theater.
“It takes a long time to build an audience, and the menu in that
buffet has been limited,” Virchis said. “Now the menu is getting broader and broader,
but it will always be important to go directly to the community with theater and
Complying with the wishes of Selena’s family has been a crucial part
of the production, Virchis said. The involvement of the singer’s father, Abraham
Quintanilla, has been minimal, although he asked for some crucial word changes
based on the family’s religious beliefs, Virchis said. Words such as angel and
spirit were removed because it conflicts with the theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses,
Sensitivity to the family is something Daniel Valdez, the seasoned
California actor who plays the senior Quintanilla, is all too familiar with. He
produced the 1987 film, “La Bamba,” the story of 1950s rocker Richie Valens. The
film - which starred Corpus Christi native Lou Diamond Phillips - was co-written
and directed by Daniel’s brother, Luis Valdez.
It took five years to convince the Valens family that the movie should
be made, Daniel Valdez said The family of Selena is far more cooperative, he said,
but Abraham Quintanilla, a demanding and authoritative parent, “is a difficult
role to do. You’re dealing with the father, not the daughter. The highs and lows
(of the relationship) are important in terms of how you play the role. You don’t
want to push him too far to one extreme because he’s still her father.”
at the rehearsal hall, director Virchis coached the actors on the not-so-subtle
points of musical theater acting, where every line seems an expression of untrammeled
emotion; and every lyric seems to touch on some aspiration of the soul.
“Up it, louder, bigger,” he told 11-year-old Denise Stefanie Gonzalez,
the young Selena, who was practicing a scene. “This is theater, big emotions.”
“Selena Forever” is, in classic musical tradition, idealist escapism;
in this case, a sentimental and uncomplicated tribute to a rising star whose early
death made her a legend.
Framed by a Tejano concert, the story is told in flashback sequences,
with lots of songs. Thirty in all, including 14 solos sung by leading lady Veronica
Vazquez during the two-hour show.
Ten of the musical numbers are songs recorded by Selena. The rest
were composed by Cuban-born Fernando Rivas and lyricist/playwright Edward Gallardo,
whose family is from Puerto Rico.
“It’s a stretch, 14 songs. And the opening number is a killer,” said
Vazquez, 24, whose interpretation of Selena’s stage personae and R&B singing voice
is both honest and sultry. “When we leave rehearsals and feel solid about what
we do, it’s great.”
Vazquez, wearing a warm-up suit that covers a Selena-like body, looks
the part in the same way that Jennifer Lopez captured Selena’s voluptuous beauty.
But being a carbon copy of Selena is not what this is all about, she said.
“It’s not about becoming Selena,” said Vazquez, a Puerto Rican singer
who grew up in New York. “It’s trying to make sure that the story comes across.
But it’s very important for me to get as close as I can to being her. Everybody
misses her. So it’s good if we can give the fans a good dose of her.”
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