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The Rich and Fascinating History of Puerto Ricans on Broadway

Puerto Ricans have influenced New York culture for years, and their footprint is nowhere more prominent than it is on the Broadway stage. Although Puerto Ricans officially became US citizens in 1917 with the passage of the Jones-Shrofth Act, the “Great Migration” from PR to NYC truly started in the 1950s with the advent of commercial airline travel. After this initial influx of migrants, the Puerto Rican population of New York City skyrocketed to 12% of the city’s total population.

Naturally, with the sudden and stark change in demographics, New York City’s culture experienced a change too. This change was never more apparent than in the rise of the “Nuyorican” movement, a class of performers, artists and writers who embraced both the American and Puerto-Rican sides to their identity. Like many of the newcomers to New York City before them, on Broadway, Puerto Rican performers revealed themselves as forces to be reckoned with. It is there, on the Great White Way, that this group of actors proved to America that Latinos have as much talent as their white counterparts.

1. Chita Rivera

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Chita Rivera is arguably the most successful Latina–let alone, Puerto-Rican–to ever grace a Broadway stage. This seven-time Tony-nominated, two-time Tony-winner began her Broadway career in the musical “Call Me Madam” in 1951. However, it was her performance originating Anita in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” that cemented her status as a Broadway icon. She has since appeared in almost 40 productions on stage, received the Kennedy Center Award in 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

2. Rita Moreno

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No introduction is necessary for the ultra-talented, legendary actress of stage and screen Rita Moreno. Although Moreno is probably best-known for her work as Anita in the film adaptation of “West Side Story”, she also has a successful career in theater. In 1975, she earned a Tony Award for her portrayal of Googie Gomez in the stage play, “The Ritz”. She truly is a living legend. She, too, has been awarded a Kennedy Center Award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

3. Raúl Juliá

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Best known for playing Gomez in the “The Addams Family” films, Juliá was actually a very well-respected stage actor nominated for multiple Tony Awards before he made the leap to the Silver Screen. He started acting career appearing in plays in Puerto Rico, but soon moved to New York City to try his hand at Broadway. He quickly found success as a celebrated Shakesperian actor, appearing in plays such as “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, “King Lear”, “As You Like It”, and “The Taming of the Shrew”.

4. Diosa Costello

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Puerto-Rican born actress Diosa Costello is notable for being the first ever Latina to star in a Broadway play, the 1939 musical “Too Many Girls” with Cubano Desi Arnaz. Dubbed “The Latin Bombshell” (how original) by the press, Costello never received super-stardom because she was “reluctant” to take her career to Hollywood.

5. Olga San Juan

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For her incredible work in 1951’s “Paint Your Wagon”, Olga San Juan was the first ever Latina to receive the prestigious Donaldson Award, an award given by the New York theater community for excellence on stage. San Juan even experienced minor mainstream success in hit Hollywood films such as “Blue Skies” and “Variety Girl”.

6. José Ferrer

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Puerto Rican actor José Ferrer was renowned for his portrayal of the famous unlucky-in-love character Cyrano de Bergerac. In fact, Ferrer won a Tony Award in 1947 for his critically-acclaimed performance.

7. Míriam Colón

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Míriam Colón was part of the groundbreaking class of “Method” actors that rose to prominence in the 50s and 60s. Colón became the first Puerto Rican actor accepted into the Actors Studio after she impressed co-founded and visionary Elia Kazan with her audition. Later, she acted as founder and director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York City that still exists today.

8. Lin Manuel Miranda

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Of course, we can’t continue this list without mentioning Lin Manuel Miranda–the Patron Saint of Puerto Ricans on Broadway. After establishing himself in the Broadway world with his hit Latinx-centric musical “In the Heights”, Miranda further cemented his place in the annals of Broadway history by writing and starring in the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton” (you may have heard of it).

9. Anthony Ramos

You may know him as Lady Gaga’s BFF in “A Star is Born”, but Nuyorican actor Anthony Ramos actually got his start playing (and originating) the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in “Hamilton”. When “Hamilton” won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, Ramos held up the Puerto Rican flag during the acceptance speech.

10. Ednita Nazario

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Although Ednita Nazario is primarily known as being a singer, this Puerto Rican powerhouse made waves in the theater community with her performance in the short-lived 1998 musical “The Capeman”. Although the musical faced harsh criticism, Nazario herself earned a Drama Desk Award for her performance

11. Josh Segarra

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Actor of Puerto Rican descent Josh Segarra graduated NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in theater. Afterward, he quickly made a name for himself by originating the role of Emilio Estefan in the hit Broadway musical based on Gloria Estefan’s life “On Your Feet!”.

12. Luis Salgado

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Puerto Rican performer Luis Salgado is a respected choreographer who had much to do with the stunning dance visuals of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s “In the Heights”. He’s appeared in musical productions of “Rocky” and “On Your Feet!”. Of being a Puerto Rican actor on Broadway, Salgado says: ““The funny thing is that they still ask Puerto Rican actors: ‘Do you have documents to work here?’ There’s so much one wants to reply to that question…”

13. John Leguizamo

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Already a famous Hollywood actor, John Leguizamo took his talent to the Great White Way with “Latin History for Morons”, a critically-acclaimed play he wrote and starred in. The play was nominated for a 2018 Tony for Best Play.

14. Ariana DeBose

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Ariana de Bose is an actress from Texas of Afro-Puerto Rican descent. Her Broadway credits include “Bring It On”, “Motown: The Musical”, “Hamilton” and “A Bronx Tale”. You’ll definitely be seeing de Bose more in the future, as she’s set to play Boricua Anita in the new movie adaptation of the “West Side Story” musical.

15. Jimmy Smits

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Jimmy Smits made history when he appeared in the 2003 play “Anna in the Tropics” that premiered at the prestigious El Royale theater. Along with fellow Poricua performer Priscilla López, Smits was part of an all-Latino cast that he (rightfully) called a “historic moment”.

16. Priscilla Lopez

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Tony-Award winning singer, dancer, and actress Priscilla Lopez is best known for originating the role of Latina hopeful Diana Morales in “A Chorus Line” (a play notably written by fellow Nuyorican Nicholas Dante). According to Lopez, the character of Diana was based off of Lopez’s own life: “For many years, I felt guilty because I was working on Broadway while many other fellow Latino actors were not.”

17. Josie de Guzman

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Legendary actress of Puerto Rican descent Josie de Guzman is notable for being handpicked by composer Leonard Bernstein to play Maria in the 1980 Broadway revival of “West Side Story”. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her acclaimed performance. You can still catch her lighting up the Broadway stage once in a while.

18. Paola Lazaro

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Paola Lazaro is a Puerto Rican playwright whose career is “dedicated to relating to Latinxs everywhere”. She most notably wrote the Dascha Polanco-starring off-Broadway production “Tell Hector I Miss Him

19. Ruben Santiago-Hudson

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Journeyman actor of Afro-Puerto Rican descent Ruben Santiago-Hudson is best known for his 1996 Tony Award-winning performance in August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars”.

20. Robin de Jesús

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Robin de Jesús is a Nuyorican two-time Tony nominee for his acclaimed performances in “In The Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles”. According to de Jesús, he was inspired to get into musical theater when his high school drama teacher told him he’d “never make it” because he was “too short and Hispanic”. Looks like he proved her wrong!

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Disney Just Announced That We Won’t Have To Wait For The Pandemic To End In Order To Watch Mulan— Thank The Ancestors!

Entertainment

Disney Just Announced That We Won’t Have To Wait For The Pandemic To End In Order To Watch Mulan— Thank The Ancestors!

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After months of delays and waiting, Disney has announced that Mulan fans will no longer have to wait for a major theatrical release to see the live-action version of the animated classic. On Tuesday the Walt Disney Company revealed that the film will no longer seek a major theatrical release and that the blockbuster’s debut will take place on the subscription streaming service, Disney+.

To see the movie, customers will need to pay an additional $29.99 on top of the cost of the monthly subscription for Disney+

“In order to meet the needs of consumers during this unpredictable period, we thought it was important to find alternative ways to bring this exceptional family-friendly film to them in a timely manner,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek explained in a statement according to Variety. “We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters.”

The company has said that it plans to release Mulan in theaters in areas where Disney+ is not available to audiences.

According to Variety, “The decision to put Mulan on premium video-on-demand further emphasizes the studio’s increased reliance on Disney Plus at a time when most of their business — from theme parks and cruises to movie theaters and retail stores — have been crippled by the pandemic. Research, Chapek says, suggests that bringing a high-profile release like Mulan to homes “will act as a fairly large stimulus to sign up for Disney Plus.”

Mulan had been originally scheduled for a theatrical debut on March 27 and was meant to be Disney’s biggest theatrical release for the year.

Disney shelled out a $200 million budget and in early March the studio set up a lavish red carpet premiere at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Days later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Disney to postpone the movie’s release. The movie’s debut was then pushed back several times before Disney announced last week that they would indefinitely remove it from the release calendar. Fortunately, they’ve changed their mind and Mulan will debut on the streamer’s new platform on September 4, 2020.

Disney’s latest version of Mulan stars actress Yifei Liu as the titular character based on the legend of a female Chinese warrior who disguises herself and takes her father’s place as a soldier.

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Netflix’s ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ Reboot Is A Millennial Fan Girl’s Dream

Entertainment

Netflix’s ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ Reboot Is A Millennial Fan Girl’s Dream

Netflix

Get ready, mi gente! The Netflix version of “The Baby-Sitters Club” is about to totally shake up your views on reboots.

That’s right, Netflix has given the beloved series, based on the books of the 80s, a new makeover and it has all of the updates you have been begging for. Slightly edgier and loads more diverse, the new series features the same characters written by Ann M. Martin decades ago. This time however the series comes with twists that make the babysitters’ little fictional town of Stony Brook, Connecticut all the more exciting.

From Kristy and Mary Anne to Claudia, Stacey, and even Dawn the gang’s all here!

Check them out below!

Dawn Schafer

“The Baby-Sitters Club”/ Netflix

Played by Xochitl Gomez (“Gentefied,” “You’re the Worst,” and “Raven’s Home”), Dawn is featured in the new series as Mary Anne’s new Latina friend who recently moved to Stoneybrook from Los Angeles. Dawn is the club’s alternate officer and an eco-conscious Latina who joins in a few episodes into the season. Speaking about her role as a character who had initially been blonde and blue-eyed in the books, Gomez told The Los Angeles Times that “it’s really important that there is representation for girls that look like me. When I was younger, I didn’t see many characters on TV shows that I could see myself in. And it really matters that TV reflects the world.”

Claudia Kishi

“The Baby-Sitters Club”/ Netflix

Momona Tamada plays the series’ beloved character, Claudia. As one of the only characters of color in the OG series, Claudia became a fan favorite for readers due to her many talents, beauty and smarts. In this series, not much has changed. She’s still the style-conscious vice president with a passion for art who loves her Japanese-American roots despite never having learned to speak Japanese.

Stacey McGill

“The Baby-Sitters Club”/ Netflix

Stacey is still the treasurer of club. She comes from the Upper West Side of Manhattan and has quite the thumb for style. In the Netflix series she is played by Shay Rudolph. One of the most exciting changes in this new series is that Stacey (who in the books struggled with hiding her diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes) is open and proud of her disorder. “I knew I had a lot of responsibility playing Stacey,” Rudolph told LA Times in an interview before explaining that she herself interviewed teens with diabetes to prepare for her role. “I asked the people I talked to what it feels like when blood sugar is dropping and what they can and can’t do without an insulin pump. I want it to be empowering to younger kids when they see Stacey is still so loved and accepted by her friends even though she has this thing she is self-conscious about.”

Mary Anne Spier

“The Baby-Sitters Club”/ Netflix

For her role as Mary Anne, Malia Baker does a pretty spot-on job as the shy club secretary of the OG series who is also Kristy’s best friend. “I haven’t read a lot of books about shy girls,” Baker told the LA Times. “I know that’s kind of weird to say, but I connected with Mary Anne the most because deep down I am a shy person. But I also connected with all of the characters in different ways. And that’s one of the great things about ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’; you can connect with at least one of the characters.”

In this new series, Mary Anne’s character eventually proves to be just one example of the show’s effort to push for diversity. In one of her most defining moments in the new series, Mary Anne babysits for and stands up for a young transgender kid when they’re misgendered.

Kristy Thomas

“The Baby-Sitters Club”/ Netflix

And finally, there’s the club’s leader: Kristy. Played by Sophie Grace, Kristy in this series remains the president of the club. In this series, she’s quick to call out social injustices and loves her gals more than ever. “I’m so honored to be a part of a series like this that gives kids someone to relate to,” Sophie Grace explained. “Kristy has her family struggles. Her parents are divorced. That’s really hard for kids, and we see how she’s finding her way through that.”

Check out the show’s trailer below!

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