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"Rent" actor knows his Angel is better the second time around

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, January 7, 2019

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"Rent" is "the gift that keeps on giving" for Aaron Alcaraz.

The actor from Los Angeles is in the midst of his second run playing Angel Dumott Schunard, a drag queen with AIDS whose vivacious personality becomes a unifying force for the ensemble of characters in Jonathan Larson's groundbreaking and award-winning musical, a contemporary imagining of Puccini's opera "La Boheme." Alcaraz, 24, was part of the company last year at the start of the "Rent" 20th anniversary tour, and he's back again for what he calls "a little visit" as the tour returns to Detroit for a nearly two-week run at the Fisher Theatre.

"Angel was always a dream character of mine," Alcaraz says by phone. "Angel is this ball of joy and light on the stage. So I found that if I come into the show breathing out all the nerves and looking to find or bring my own fun to the stage, then Angel just appears." And Alcaraz says it's even better playing Angel now than it was during his first tenure with "Rent."

"It's allowed me to learn how to cultivate and grow with a role over a very long time," he explains. "It's just been, like, a really welcoming family and obviously a family that keeps welcoming people back, because here I am. There's definitely a newfound sense of being that wasn't quite there when I stared. I know who Angel is more now, having lived with him such a long time."

Growing up the only child of medical professionals, Alcaraz was something of a "late bloomer" in theater. He liked music and musicals "Rent" was the second he ever saw, after "Chicago," and he sang some of its songs in his school choir. He did his first show, "High School Musical," as a sophomore in high school, "just kind of giving theater a try." It clicked. He began taking acting classes and ultimately decided theater was what he wanted to do.

"I really developed a love for acting and creating a character and doing all these things," says Alcaraz, who moved across the country to pursue a bachelor of fine arts degree at Ithaca College in New York. "I'm thankful my parents were very supportive of it. I've been singing since I was a little kid, so they weren't that surprised although it did take some convincing to let me fly all the way across the country and attend a musical theater program for college as opposed to something more concrete."

After graduating, Alcaraz joined Disney Cruise Lines as an ensemble entertainer for a year. The "Rent" role, meanwhile, has given him a different kind of stability as well as an apartment in New York City after "living for about two years out of two suitcases." He's at the beginning of what he hopes will be a prolific and successful theater career, and playing Angel a role which won one of "Rent's" four Tony Awards for original Broadway cast actor Wilson Jermaine Heredia is a formidable launch pad.

"Angel's always been my favorite character in the show," Alcaraz notes. "I feel like he's the most approachable and the one people relate to the most. I've been asked what it's like to play such a controversial character, but I don't think Angel is controversial. How can a character like Angel, who's literally all about love and pure-hearted, be seen as controversial? Even in today's climate, where we've regressed a little bit, Angel is somebody we should all aspire to be like. I know he's somebody I want to be more like, for sure."

The "Rent" 20th Anniversary Tour runs Tuesday, Jan. 8, through Jan. 20 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets start at $39. A lmited number of $20 tickets will be available on each performance day. 313-872-1000 or broadwayindetroit.com.

Web Site: www.boradwayindetroit.com

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