Ricardo A. Zayas (Photo: RJ Muna/Lines Ballet)
By Matthew Wexler
Broadway’s got the beat with the arrival of Head Over Heels. Featuring a score with music by the legendary all-female band The Go-Go’s and a wonky, Elizabethan story that follows the escapades of a royal family on an outrageous journey to save their beloved kingdom from extinction, the musical has quickly become an audience favorite. Cast member Ricardo A. Zayas offers us an insider’s glimpse of what it’s like working on the show as well as some of his favorite spots around New York city.
Brooklyn, the Borough of Kings!
Confession: How much of the Go-Go’s music did you know before auditioning for Head Over Heels?
I knew more than I realized. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” is one of my favorite jams of all time — even if I was four years old when it was released. That’s even more surprising considering my mom mostly played salsa music in the house and my dad was a diehard Elvis fan. The 80’s were a great time for the genre, but I have no idea how I became a rock aficionado.
You have a serious dance background, having been named one of Dance magazine’s “25 to watch” — how would you describe Spencer Liff’s choreography for the show?
There’s so much happening in this show. Spencer found a bunch of really fierce weirdos that can do so many different things and added a touch of royal flair and regality. Name any other ensemble on Broadway that is giving you everything we’re giving you. I’ll wait…
Fans are going head over heels (no pun intended) for the show? Why do you think it’s resonating so wildly with audiences?
It’s hilarious yet reflective. It really speaks to how we can honor tradition, while still allowing ourselves to evolve. HOH does a really wonderful job of making necessary discussions happen AND allowing you to enjoy the escape theater was meant to be.
Head Over Heels is breaking ground with Peppermint as the first transgender woman to originate a principal role on Broadway. What would you say to encourage young performers that might not fit our traditional stereotypes of leading men and women?
Keep onward and steady with your discovery of art, but be patient while others catch up to your level of clarity and self-confidence. Sadly, their minds have been constrained for so long they don’t understand what to do with the freedom you personify and demonstrate.
If I weren’t a performer, I would be:
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
I’m usually riddled with anxiety at “places” and “curtain call” means it’s all over, but “intermission” is when you have the audience right where you want them —they’re already buzzing but I still got some tricks up my sleeve.
The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Dear Irving. I go there when I want to feel luxe and bougie.
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
My workout “secret” is:
Get used to looking at yourself naked and don’t hide from yourself. Understand what you want to change WITHOUT BEATING YOURSELF UP and figure out what will target those changes you want to make.
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
Ingenuity — the insight into sexiness, humor, and talent.
My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
myportiswaspsays.com is literally a visualization of my imagination.
People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Took my first dance class when I was 18. Up until then, I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. I went to Brooklyn Tech, a specialized high school where I could specialize in medicine, but when I found dance in my senior year, I thought “Oooooh! THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life!”
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
James Bond (specifically, Sean Connery as 007)
Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Surrounded by people who love me and teach me new things.
Head Over Heels is currently playing at The Hudson Theatre. Be sure to check out Ricardo’s castmate and past Theater Buff Yurel Echezarreta!
Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor and a recent fellowship participant at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute. Read more of his work at wexlerwrites.com.