A few years back, when the stage version of Disney’s Aladdin was seen in a developmental first class production at the 5th Ave Theatre, Don Darryl Rivera’s Iago impressed the powers that be enough that he was asked to encore the role on Broadway, in 2014, where it is still going strong. When the 5th asked Don Darryl to play the role of Don Quixote’s traveling companion in the 5th’s 2016-2017 season opener Man of La Mancha, he got the ok from the House of Mouse. In the midst of rehearsals, this delightful performer talked to Jetspace about his amazing journey from Seattle to Broadway and (briefly) back.
Welcome back to Seattle, Don Daryl. Prior to your move to NYC name a few of your favorite roles in shows you did here.
Thanks, David! I’m so thrilled to be back in Seattle!
I have so many favorite roles that I did here in Seattle! Where do I begin? Verges to Todd Jefferson Moore’s Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing at Seattle Shakespeare Company, Lowly Worm in Busytown at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Roger in I Was A Rat! also at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Valere in A Doctor In Spite of Himself at Intiman, Sancho in Man of La Mancha at Taproot, Iago, of course, opposite the amazing Jonathan Freeman as Jafar in Aladdin at The 5th Avenue Theatre, The Mouse in If You Give A Mouse A Cookie at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Tank in Zanna, Don’t! at Contemporary Classics, Harold in Harold and the Purple Crayon at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Feste in Illyria at Taproot, and Spot in Adventures with Spot at Seattle Children’s Theatre! The list is much, much longer but these are some I have very fond memories of doing.
I understand the 5th called upon you and the kindness of Disney to replace an actor who had to drop out. Is that right?
They actually approached me to play Sancho first! I was flattered when they called to offer me the role. I’m also very lucky that Disney gave me the time off to do one of my favorite musicals in my hometown!
Sancho is one of the most endearing sidekick characters in musical theatre. What makes your take on him special?
For Sancho, there’s a very fine balance playing into the world as Quixote sees it while also incorporating the real world into Quixote’s vision. All of this to say Sancho does it because he really cares for his master. What I’ve brought to this particular production of Man of La Mancha is a funny man who isn’t afraid to get serious and at the drop of a hat can go from the comedic relief to the straight man and back.
About a week ago it was announced that Rufus Bonds would replace the announced Norm Lewis as Don Quixote. Did you start rehearsals with Norm and then have to adjust to Rufus? It seems to be a very short rehearsal period for their camaraderie to gel.
I never got to work with Norm. Some of the principals started rehearsals before the rest of the cast to do table work and music etc. and Norm withdrew from the production a couple of days before he was supposed to start rehearsals. Rufus Bonds Jr. has been an absolute joy to work with! Something I learned while working at different theatres across the country is that your cast quickly becomes your family because you spend 8 hours a day, six days a week locked in a room with them! But besides Rufus being so kind and generous, he is an incredible performer who brings so much charisma to the role that the camaraderie came quickly and genuinely.
What most appeals to you about the show?
I adore this incredibly rich score. And to me, this show perfectly encapsulates the notion of your emotions getting to a heightened state and the only way to express them is to sing. None of the songs seem fluffy or overwrought – they’re all juicy and are perfect little plays within the play within the play.
What lyric from the show moves you the most?
I think the lyric that moves me the most in this show is: …”and yet how lovely life could seem if ev’ry man could weave a dream to keep him from despair.”
You were in the 5th Avenue’s pre-Broadway production of Aladdin, and were then chosen as one of the cast members to go to Broadway with the show. You have been doing it quite awhile now. How has your role changed?
Broadway Iago vs. Seattle Iago is completely different! In Seattle, Iago was a little bit softer – more of a yes man with a hint of villainy. Broadway Iago is a loudmouth who thinks he’s just as dastardly as his boss. If Broadway Iago was just a little bit taller, I bet he’d try to overthrow Jafar. Haha!
I like to tell the story about how Broadway Iago came about. We were two weeks into the pre-Broadway run in Toronto and we were just about to start rehearsals to try out some new material for the Broadway run. I was approached by Casey Nicholaw and Chad Beguelin. They told me they wanted to try something new with Iago. They wanted the spirit of Iago. They handed me 15 pages of new material and we rehearsed for a few hours. That night I tried the new Iago our for a sold out house. We knew right away what worked and we continued to build the new Iago from there. When we got back to NYC we had a strong foundation for Iago and the luxury of 4 weeks of rehearsal to really flesh him out.
You and your wife endured moving and then found out you had Eloise coming. Tell us about your baby girl?
Kate and I met at Seattle Children’s Theatre back in 2009. She was an IATSE stagehand back then. Just before we moved to NYC in 2013, Kate made the transition into stage management. Since moving to New York, Kate has worked on 6 shows at Paper Mill Playhouse! They were the recipient of the 2016 Tony Award for Best Regional Theatre. She worked on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ever After, and The Bandstand, to name a few.
We were in the process of moving to New Jersey when we found out we were pregnant. Eloise was born in January of this year and we couldn’t be happier. She’s the perfect theatre baby! She waited until the Monday after a 9 show week to be born. I think she also knew there was a snowstorm coming around the time she was due so she came 2 weeks early! That snowstorm actually shut down NYC and all Broadway shows were cancelled. I will say, living the suburban life with our little family has been an absolute dream.
How much longer you continue with Aladdin? What do you see in your future?
Currently my contract takes me into 2018! Being a big Disney nerd, I have my dream job. Even after 1,000+ performances of Aladdin I’m always so excited when I walk into the New Amsterdam Theatre. Sustaining a long run certainly has its own set of challenges but something I’m learning is that the audiences can be so vastly different that they keep you on your toes as a performer so the show always feels fresh and new.
Is a more lengthy or permanent return to Seattle likely?
We lived in Brooklyn for 2 years and now live in the suburbs in New Jersey – it’s the closest we’ve found to PNW style living while still being in close proximity to NYC. I think us moving to New Jersey will keep us on the East Coast longer but eventually we’ll move back to Seattle and raise our family there. I mean, it’s home!
Man of La Mancha runs October 7-30, 2016 (press night Thursday, October 13, 2016) at The 5th Avenue Theatre (1308 5th Avenue, Seattle). For single tickets (starting at $29) and information, please visit 5thavenue.org, call the Box Office at (206) 625-1900, or visit the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.