London Theatre Interview | 2018
16 January 2019 | 21:15
The Crazy Coqs - Brasserie Zédel
Paquito Forever is a new musical written by Fran Arráez and Gerard Alonso and directed by Victor Alvaro. After rave reviews from his London debut at Crazy Coqs in 2017 with Something's Coming: a Sondheim Tribute and his acclaimed New York City debut at Feinstein's/54 Below, Joan Vázquez is thrilled to present Paquito Forever.
Hi Joan thanks for talking to tNC, how's everything going?
Very good, thanks.
Are you excited to be back in London premiering Paquito Forever at Crazy Coq's?
Yes. It was such a journey to create this role in Barcelona and I am very grateful for the warm welcome the show had. Crazy Coq’s is one of the most special cabarets I have ever been to and it’s great to have the audience so close.
I can’t wait for Londoners to meet Paquito.
This is a return for you after your debut back in 2016, what was that experience like for you?
I had to pinch myself after the show. In Barcelona, we see the West End and Broadway as the place of reference for shows and I have seen so so many musicals in London these past 20 years. To come here to perform Sondheim and see people enjoying it... I felt so lucky to be given the chance.
The response to this show has already been incredible in your native Barcelona, what has it meant to you to get the reaction you've gotten for Paquito Forever?
It was very touching to see people connecting with Paco’s life. To me, he represents those many many artists from my city who had long and intense careers devoted to their craft but never enjoyed fame or had a special recognition through their life. He also represents the memory of the golden age of our avenue -the Paralelo- that was once the bohemian and artistic centre of Barcelona with his theatres and cabarets.
Are there any nerves ahead of your London show?
Yes, but good ones! I’ll be performing the show fully in English with a translation from the Spanish and Catalan made for the occasion. Paco lived in NY for more than 30 years. I’m looking forward to make him heard in his English.
"Our revival worked very well and we got the Butaca Award for Best Musical."
Can you tell me a little but about Paquito Forever, how did this show come about?
4 years ago I was cast in the revival of ‘Flor de Nit’ (an acclaimed Catalan musical from the 90s) as ‘Paquito’ -a Paralelo transvestite- a role Paco had created in the original. Paco passed away when we were in rehearsals and a friend of his gave me a compilation of Paco’s memoirs that AISGE had published a few years before.
Our revival worked very well and we got the Butaca Award for Best Musical. We then did another run of ‘Flor de Nit’ after that and I felt a great connection with the character. I had to do a show about him.
Did you know much about Paco Alonso and his career before you started working on Flor de nit?
I didn’t, no. I knew who he was but I discovered more things after his death. I didn’t know he had made it in NY for such a long time and had worked with so many celebrities.
What was it about Paco Alonso life and work that inspired you so much to create Paquito Forever?
No dream was too big for him. He turned every challenge into something possible and he travelled all around the world, reinventing himself and pushing his limits. It’s a great example of determination and courage and he had a great sense of humour, especially for a man living in Spanish dictatorship.
What was the most challenging part of bringing this show to life?
We started previews in the week of the brutal police intervention in the Cataluña 1-O election last year. Ticket sales dropped dramatically in all the theatres in the city. Moreover, Paco -although a native from Barcelona- represents the Spanish legacy in Cataluña of all those families who were immigrants from the rest of Spain. I feared this crossover could make the character unfriendly for Catalan audiences at such a delicate time between the Catalan government and the central government of Spain.
It turned out to be totally the opposite. Paco is an icon of the plurality of identities in Cataluña and that’s how audiences reacted to him and celebrated him especially in such a time.
Have you always been interested in theatre and performing?
Yes, I used to perform for my teddies since I was 4 or 5 and I took advantage of any family reunion to show off my new musical number. I convinced my mum to go to a musical theatre school when I was 14 and I was cast in ‘Rent’ directed by Abby Epstein and Michael Greif at 17. Nothing would stop me then.
How much has your approach to your shows and work changed since you first started out?
I used to worry about being right for the shows that were produced in Barcelona and there aren’t that many shows. I’ve been so lucky and I’ve had the chance to work with awesome creative teams but little by little I lost interest in trying to fit in and I started to feel a need to do shows that talked about the things that I had an interest in. That’s when I began creating the shows I’m in.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
Surround yourself by the people who love you.
Do you have any advice you would offer any up and coming theatre maker?
Use any bad review or comment as an impulse to be better in what you do. Never complain.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Paquito Forever?
The energy of Paco, his way of turning every occasion into an opportunity, the flame of the flamenco music.