Roberto Clemente: The Musical

Producer Manuel Morán and director Luis Caballero have a dual goal as they move ahead with plans to stage a musical based on the life of Puerto Rican baseball great Roberto Clemente: to celebrate the life of the player and to bridge the tensions between Puerto Ricans on the island and those living in New York, writer Amary Santiago Torres for the Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora. For the original report in Spanish follow the link below.

The musical, DC-7: The Story of Roberto Clemente, will offer a glimpse into the life of the player born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, who died on December 31, 1972 when the plane he was taking from San Juan to Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff. He was on his way to Nicaragua to bring supplies to those affected by a recent earthquake.

The production will be part of the sixth edition of the Puerto Rican festival Borimix, which takes place every November in New York, as part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Who will play the role of Clemente? Everything points to Puerto Rican actor Modesto Lacén, but Morán and Caballero have not declared it categorically, since details have to be finalized. Modesto has experience portraying Clemente, since he starred in the short film 3000 by director Skip Font, which depicts the moment when the player got his 3000th hit. Moreover, the actor looks strikingly like Clemente.

Caballero says that he wrote the first draft of the script six years ago, which he originally planned to produce with Ralph Mercado and David Maldonado and would have start salsa star Michael Stuart. The production was stopped when Mercado dies, but now is going ahead with Morán at the Sea Theater in New York. There had been no contract with Michael Stuart to play the lead.

“We believe in auditions, but Modesto has the edge. I know he understand what it is to be away from your country and we agree that he should be the one, although there are still some loose ends,” the director insisted.

“The plan is to showcase the memories and narratives of people that surrounded Roberto. What goes through their minds when they hear of his death. This brings forth several different stages in his life,” the director explained about the play, which opens with his tragic death before returning to his childhood, his sports career, and his activism through the memories of broadcaster and friend Ramiro Martínez, his brother Matino Clemente and his widow Vera Clemente.

Caballero underscored that the production, which will be bilingual, will focus on salient moments of the player’s life, such as episodes when he is not allowed to enter restaurants and hotels because he is black.

Caballero and Morán insist that this musical is very different from the one produced on the island in the 1980s, in which the role of Clemente was played by actor Julio Axel Landrón.

“That was a musical modeled on Broadway. We are doing something different since we are working with a dramatic piece with live music. We are not aiming to create a Broadway-style musical comedy. There will be some elements of that type of production, since audiences are accustomed to American productions and their grandiosity, but our production will have new rhythms, instruments, dance steps, costumes and reality,” argued Morán, founder of the Sociedad Educativa de las Artes (SEA), who aims to present the work in Puerto Rico after its opening in New York.

The producer added that his chief goal is to unite Puerto Ricans living in New York to those of the island, who, despite sharing the same origins are separated by barriers. “In addition to presenting biographical and historical material, we want the communities to understand that Puerto Rico is both here and there. We would like to help eradicate the prejudices that exist between islanders, nuyoricans, and those in Orlando. [See our earlier post Mickey-Ricans: Puerto Ricans in Central Florida’s Tourism Hub ]. We are building our nation in all these places and looking for a way to break apart those things that divide us. We want to create a bridge through theater and the arts, the real cultural air bus, since we share the same need for what is ours, he concluded.

Auditions for the production will take place during the last week of August at the Sea Theater in New York. Those interested should call (787) 792-8005 or (212) 529-1545 or visit the web page at

For the original report go to

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