A musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge and death, The West Side Story showcased a great deal of performance from a wide range of artists. The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from one act to another leaving its audience’s heart thumping!
For the longest time I had been in the entertainment business, I never had that much of a background with theatre shows and musicals. My parents were hard core into business that they were not able to bring us to any when I was young and so I told myself, I’ll watch as much as I can now so that I could write about them.
After I had watched WICKED, the more I felt the urge to get educated. Besides the live talent showcased in a musical, I love how all the elements come together in telling the story. I automatically searched for the next one and THE WEST SIDE STORY was up. After rounding up my musical gang, talked about a fairly nearer-than-usual-tickets and agreeing on a date, off we went.
This modern Romeo and Juliet love story showed how extreme being territorial was back in the 1950s-60s around Manhattan between the white people (the Jets, with Riff as their leader) and against all other races. In this very specific musical, it was against a Puerto Rican gang (led by Bernardo). It becomes interesting when one of the gang members’ sister (Maria) fell in love with the guy (Tony) who co-founded the Jets and was starting to embrace a life without being a gang member. The love they shared complicated things and had led to painful events. Nothing was left of it but revenge at its finest resulting to death.
It would be a spoiler to reveal the details but from a critique’s point of view, the stage was at its minimal decor but it moves to revealing a finer backdrop of an apartment, an alley, a dressing room and many more each time. Even though I thought Maria needed to be more convincing with her performance, her voice was effortless, the dances were strong, Anita (Bernardo’s girlfriend) was a phenomenal singer for she belts while swooshing her skirt around without hesitation and without holding back, and of course, Tony, was one remarkable lead talent that I had the honour to interview online.
It was a rainy May 24th when we watched the show and we were on our way for a late dinner, trying to catch a cab outside the Academy of Performing Arts when we spotted the cast of “The West Side Story” coming out of the theatre. A very humbling gesture by Mr. Kevin Hack, who played as one of the leads in the musical by the name of Tony, graced us with this photo opportunity and had agreed to an online interview.
Kevin Joseph Hack, 24, is halfway to finishing his AFA in Music Education when he had to decide on joining The West Side Story International Tour that would include traveling a lot from places to places starting from rehearsals in Austria, followed by a series of performances in Asia (Hong Kong, Philippines, South Korea), New Zealand, America, and all over Europe.
HOW HE STARTED
“I was on my way to becoming a junior hockey player who never acted or sang ever.”, he answered remembering his biggest break. Truth be told, Kevin shares the first time he stepped on stage or have sung a note on stage was when he participated in the High School Musical way back 2010. This paved the way for Kevin to realise that performing is his calling.
Taught by many private music instructors in the course of 5 years, Kevin’s career had soared in numerous regional theatres that led him touring with luxury cruise ships such as Regent and Norwegian.
HIS GREATEST PASSION
Because of these accomplishments, Kevin feels blessed in being able to support his family financially. Each time, he feels compelled to get motivated to stay in the business and to do that, he reminds himself that it needs consistency.
“I always say that a dream is something that takes work and a lot of prayer. It’s a 24 hour 7 day a week grind. I’m not ever in the mind-set of just being satisfied in where I am, I am constantly working for the next best thing. Whether it be to be stronger in the gym, a more believable actor, a better singer etc.. You need to be motivated. Nothing is going to be handed to you. It’s also so much more fulfilling when you work so hard for something and you make it.”, says the young actor.
Speaking from a performers’ point of view, there will come a time that our daily motivation becomes scarce. When this happens, I tend to put people, who brings out that fire us, in the audience to stay focused. And this may be the same with other performers, most especially, those who deal with long-playing roles. As for Kevin, the following are his influencers that he gets strength from now and then: Jesus, his family, his managing team, coaches and teachers. He greatly relies on God with the timing of everything. And he’s thankful for every opportunity he gets and makes sure he puts more than 100% to it.
As far as consistency goes, he follows a healthy diet regimen supplemented with a daily dose of the right vitamins. His lifestyle had changed from being lazy when it comes to giving importance to his health but he’s now embraced as much greens as he can because one thing that he wishes he had learned before becoming a performer was to take good care of yourself in terms of health.
This served him well because the rehearsals that they did for The West Side Story on tour, they had to do full ones every day for a month in a 4-star hotel in the mountains of Austria. They were not allowed to go out which made the cast close and tight altogether. There was great physical demand on that and he was glad that he was doing a lot of trainings before and that his discipline with himself was already set.
KEVIN AS “TONY” IN THE WEST SIDE STORY
I was personally impressed with Kevin’s vocals. His high notes were impeccable. And his stage presence is exemplary. For a rising talent at 24, I must say The West Side Story provided him with a promising road to success.
At the time he got called for an audition in March 2016, he was out in Florida doing a contract already. As per advice, his own manager had asked him of a video that he could send The West Side Story management. He did not hear from them by May 2016 so he was already getting himself convinced that maybe he should let it go. But in July, he received an email from his manager saying that they were interested to see him sing in person. He was out in Scandinavia working as a principal vocalist for the Norwegian Cruise Line that time so the Conductor and General Manager of the company saw him while he was in Helsinki, Finland and was hired 4 hours after. And that right there was what he thought was God’s own perfect timing.
When he was studying his role as Tony, it was not that hard for him as he saw himself befitting with the character’s attitude. Persevering, modest, loving, playful and a little rebellious yet down-to-earth.
“I would say I put 95% of me on the stage and adhere to general rules of the stage which would be the other 5%”, says the vibrant actor in giving justice to the role of Tony.
A SECRET WEAPON
Kevin had a dream of becoming a bodybuilder someday. Engaging in hockey before and spending most of his time working now while maintaining a healthy lifestyle obviously gives us that he’s very sporty. But the stage owns his soul. For now, the training he got from the sports he wanted to pursue had produced a chiseled body that was benefiting him in so many ways as far as roles come into play.
He admits that staying in this business is quite difficult. There is no rule book in becoming a triple threat on stage (can sing, can dance, can act). So, as I asked, how he serves his audience’s expectation each time he performs, he would build the character ground up. So much so, if there’s a need for him to research and borrow books about the time a play was written to better his approach on impersonating the character.
Ultimately, his life is centred on God’s purpose on him. Being a Christian, he keeps himself grounded. When asked about what should a successful actor have as he goes on with his journey in show business, his answer caught me by surprise because it was modesty and humility. In my mind, he’s still very young yet he’s answer makes a lot of sense because so many in the industry tend to get caught up with the overwhelming photo ops, interviews, autograph signing and the press that they tend to act with too much entitlement.
Many performers have special juju’s when it comes to performing. Jujus are rituals that they do right before going to stage. Some don’t eat peanuts before a performance because superstitiously, they don’t want to be all over the place and lose concentration; some do 10 push ups for an instant pump up; some had to stretch for half an hour before at least. Kevin’s is simple. He has to hit the highest note in the song, “Maria”, that’s one and he has to pray first before stepping onstage. And that’s his secret weapon.
- THE BROWN ACADEMY OF MUSIC PROVIDES THE PATHWAY TO STARDOM FOR THE KIDS OF LUTOPAN, TOLEDO CITY, CEBU – Another humble superstar who had graced the stages of Disney, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship and Philippines over its 3 groups of islands (7,104) in total is helping out her hometown reach for the stars by teaching them what she had learned.
- CONTEMPORARY DANCE – what I had learned from the head of Contemporary in The Academy of Hong Kong Performing Arts.
- AARON JAN MERCADO – He was always the underdog each time in vocal auditions but his biggest break had started him off in London, in a musical entitled, “Here Lies Love”, and now he’s career soars in different parts of the world.