Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet the talented Juan Caballer Prades. This triple threat will be performing in the Lyric Opera in Chicago’s production of West Side Story (a show he has performed previously at The Barrington Stage) where he’ll be playing the role of Tiger and understudy for the role of Chino. Some other recent credits include Jerome Robbins Broadway 30th Anniversary Reunion, as well performing in Evita at The Asolo Repertory Theatre and Riverside Theatre, and Guys and Dolls at The Old Globe Theatre and The Asolo Repertory Theatre. Juan has an amazing presence on the stage that draws you to him. It was a complete honor to have the chance to interview this fantastic triple threat of a performer!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
Probably when I was 5 or 6. I saw a production of Peter Pan in Spain, and it instantly changed my life, I wanted to be Peter Pan so I could fly. And then I saw a production of Fame and fell in love with dancing. I was very lucky that back in the day they used to produce a couple of musicals in Barcelona every year, and my parents would always take me, I always knew it’s what I wanted to do.
Where did you study? Are there any mentors that genuinely helped make you the performer you are today?
I started studying at age 14 at a small musical theatre school in Spain, and that’s where I began all my training. I was so passionate about theatre I knew I wanted to learn more than what Spain could offer, so for college I moved to Los Angeles to study at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) and got a BFA in Musical Theatre. I have to give a special shout out to my mentor John Sloman. His class was one of the most eyes opening and crucial to me. Not only did he help me shape as a performer but also during that first year after graduation he gave all the courage and tools to focus and get the visa, I’m in right now. I’m incredibly grateful for him.
Congratulations on West Side Story at The Lyric Opera in Chicago. I have followed your career for some time now. Having performed in this show before, what would you say draws you to West Side Story?
Thank you! This will be my fourth time tackling this masterpiece (once in college and third time professionally), and I’m still as excited as the first time. There are so many things that draw me to the show: First of all, the subject matter. It’s a show that even though it was written in 1957 is still relevant to this day. Then the score, no matter how many times I’ve heard it I never get tired from it, and that’s because I still discover new motifs and sparks of genius in it. My favorite thing to do during the last production was to find all the “Maria” motifs hidden through the show, and you’d be surprised how many you can find. The choreography for me is hands down the most satisfying character-driven show in the musical theatre repertoire. It’s part of the DNA of the show, it’s treated just as important as any other scene or song, and you don’t get a lot of that. It’s exhausting to do it eight times a week, but whenever you feel tired you can focus on what the character wants and let your body do the work because it’s choreographed that way. Simply genius. And what especially keeps me drawn into the show is the direction you can take it. It’s been past 60 years since it’s opening so my favorite thing is seeing how directors make it relevant to a 2019 audience. I know the production at the Lyric we have all kinds of ethnicities playing Jets, which is something I’m extremely excited about.
Are there any shows (Other than West Side Story) that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
Absolutely! I did a production of American Idiot that I will never forget. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me right before the first day of rehearsal, my application for my visa wasn’t looking too great, and my life was almost falling apart. So, I put all that frustration and anxiety into the show. I was so vulnerable during rehearsal. I was able to find some great honest moments. And as time passed it became my therapy; if I was having a bad day, I could just put it into the show. Another great experience was doing Guys and Dolls at the Asolo Rep Theatre. One of my favorites casts and made my closest friends there.
What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
First and foremost, make sure you LOVE it. It’s the best job in the world, but it’s continually demanding the best of you, constant sacrifices and having to build a thick skin. Second of all, train, train, train, train! You can’t do eight shows a week with just talent; you need to know your craft, know your technique and always be open to keep learning! And last, find your own way of telling stories. There are too many people doing the same thing, doing “what’s expected.” Find the truth in you and tell the story the way you want to. It’s way more interesting!
If you are in the Chicago area, you truly don’t want to miss Juan and this production of West Side Story.
To learn more, make sure you visit - www.lyricopera.org and to learn more about Juan please visit - www.juancaballer.com