Migguel Anggelo came like a force into my life. I was sitting at a small table, in the middle of Joe’s Pub, waiting for him to come on stage and perform. I was talking to my guest about the space, and the show. I had not much idea what the show was going to be about, my knowledge started and ended in the name “Another Son of Venezuela.” What came next was a journey through identity, connection, spirit, and culture. And his culture is not my culture, yet I knew each of his pains like they were my own. I remember my guest being flabbergasted. I remember talking for hours afterwards. That kind of work is not to just be celebrated, but to take in.
That night Migguel became a magician on stage, weaving music with storytelling masterfully. It impacted me so much that when the opportunity to share more about him was presented, I didn’t think twice. Get to meet the man, before he becomes the legend, from his own mouth.
What inspired you to put such a personal story on stage?
I believe the best art comes out of personal experience, and I write about what I know, my personal relationship to my dreams, and what inspires me as an artist. I don’t know any other way to make honest work than sharing true experience. While I know my story is kind of wild and varied, it is real, and I believe everyone can relate to wanting to find a place that is home, that is safe, and that we all belong to. Those are universal feelings no matter where you are from.
You are going on tour pretty soon, what markets are you hitting? Where are you the most excited of going?
We are very excited! We are embarking on our first international tour to Russia as a cultural envoy under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State. We are performing all throughout Russia at theaters, concert halls, outdoor music festivals, and the Ambassador’s residence, and we are performing at places like the Moscow International House of Music, which might be considered the Carnegie Hall of Moscow! It’s a HUGE honor, and we can’t wait!
How do you think this show affects people? How do you think Europeans will react to it?
We are not going to do “Another Son of Venezuela” in Russia, as the English libretto will probably not be understood there. Rather, we are focusing on music – our own, as well as some of the classic Latin music that I grew up with, have loved all my life, and that remains a major influence on me today. I feel honored that the U.S. Department of State is proud and excited to share Latino culture, such an important ingredient of what makes up American culture now. We believe that our audiences will be swept up in the passion and the dynamism of the music and our presentation of it!
Regarding “Another Son of Venezuala,” I am so happy that people experience laughter and tears and joy and sorrow all in the same night. People THINK the show is going to be a typical cabaret act, and then it takes a turn, and it goes deep. That was our goal in making the piece, and we are THRILLED that people are reacting to it in the way we had hoped.
When I saw it back in October, I was deeply moved, but the most incredible thing was how my guest felt. She has no connection to Latino culture besides my friendship, and she couldn’t stop crying. She was so deeply involved, she didn’t stop talking for days about it. What’s your hope? Besides the admiration, what do you hope people like this get from the show?
I am so happy to hear of your friend’s reaction! I want people to be moved. I want people to be reminded: we’re all the same. It doesn’t matter where you are from. I am from Venezuela, but whether you are from my country or whether you grew up in New Jersey, we all want the same things: happiness, success, safety, love, fulfillment, joy . . . these are universal themes for PEOPLE. The word “immigrant” is often used as a negative, right? But for us, it’s a GREAT positive. We are ALL immigrants from the moment we leave our mother’s wombs! We all are! That’s a lyric from our song, “Inmigrantes,” and I am thrilled that people leave the show excited by that.
Why New York? Why did you make this such a big stop?
Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of living in New York City. I feel that in my last life I must have lived here! I just love the people and the passion and the energy and the art. Everywhere you turn, there is inspiration. And I love the fact that a guy like me, who doesn’t EXACTLY fit in, can find a place in this puzzle and fit in! I feel at home here. I FINALLY found a place where I feel at home.
Tell us a little about your journey — when did you start singing? What else do you do besides music?
I always loved to be on stage since I was a child. I loved dressing in costumes and acting, and the first time I saw the film, The Sound of Music, I wanted to be a singer. When I saw Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, I wanted to be a dancer, and the first time I saw Charlie Chaplin, I wanted to be an actor.
At age 13, I was cast to play Pinocchio in a Broadway touring production of the musical in South America, and I have been on the stage since. After several years working on many shows in Venezuela, I went to Germany to visit where my grandfather came from, and I decided to stay. When I ran out of money, I started singing on the street for coins, and there I met a professor from the opera academy in Cologne who took me under his wing and taught me to sing. I went to the Academy there for four years, and ultimately left when I was cast as one of the lead characters in a South American tour of the musical FAME. I performed in FAME for four years until I went to Miami.
But upon arriving in Miami, there was no theater for me, and I got bogged down in jobs for survival. I worked as a maid, in restaurants and at stores for about ten years. But in all those years when I could not be in a play, I wrote songs, and I painted pictures, and I made sculptures. I did art work that I could do by myself. I could not allow the creativity in me to die despite the fact that I could not be in a show, and I redirected my energies to things I could do alone.
I ultimately took the many songs that I wrote over the years, and slowly started to recreate a theatrical world for myself with them. Now in NY, I am so grateful for the opportunities that are presenting themselves. It feels like I am coming back to life again.
Have you started thinking of your next show yet?
Yes! We are working on new material right now. We are working on a concept album called, “English With An Accent,” which will also be the title of the new show.
Being so proudly hispanic (as I am too), are there any stories from your land you would love to bring here? Any fable, real history, dream project?
You know, the poetry and the magic realism of the art and literature of Latin America are deep in my soul. My dream is to create a much more theatrical production that still deals with the very personal journey of the immigrant, but that is expanded with sets and costumes and the magic of the theater! That’s the dream, and I am determined to make it reality. We believe that “English With An Accent” can be that show!
Any words for people like you who chase their dreams against odds from everywhere?
I know it’s a little cheesy, but it’s really true: Don’t stop dreaming. Do it with great faith and dignity. Don’t hurt anyone. And do what you do, the best you can, as hard as you can, and with as much love and commitment as you can. Embrace your difference and make it your greatest strength! I know I have a heavy accent, that English will always be my second language, that I even need help with writing in English, that I am not going to be perfect for many roles on stage, but the fabulous thing about this country (which is really different than where I am from), if you work really, really hard and have faith, those dreams can become reality. That’s pretty awesome.
Twisted Talk: Do you relate to Migguel’s story? Would you see his new show? Discuss below!