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Selena: Celebration Of Life

The Broadway Musical Tribute

In 1997 "Selena" won the hearts of all Selena fans. But a new, more unique tribute for her was already in the works in 1999. A $2,000,000 broadway-bound musical entitled "Selena" (USA 1999 Working Title). This multimedia show was to premiere in San Antonio in March of 2000 to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the death of Selena. Top broadway producers such as: Thomas J. Quinn, Jerry Frankel, Peter Fitzgerald and Michel Vega would see to it that Selena would make it on Broadway.

The project was authorized by Selena's family.

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The Process of finding "Selena":

The producers of the musical were out to find the right person to play Selena on the stage. Taking in mind that portraying Selena on stage is a lot different (and more difficult) then onscreen, the producers decided to find two actresses to portray Selena on stage. The search began...

The casting call for "Selena Forever" (2000 Title) was similar to the one done in "Selena".  The open-casting call took place in various different cities across the U.S. The reason that the producers wanted to find two Selenas was that the role required too much work for one actress to take on her own. The actress who plays Selena would have to do 8 live shows weekly and sing many songs. There were so many songs that the play broke the Broadway record.

For this casting call about 1,500 possible Selenas showed up to audition (including the 4 above). For this audition they were asked to bring a short resume, a picture and to be ready to sing one of two Selena hits: "Dreaming Of You" or "I Could Fall In Love" and interestingly enough to PLEASE NOT COME DRESSED AS SELENA. Which was very popular to do for the "Selena" auditions. The reason for this according to Michel Vega was because they were not looking for a Selena clone. The actress needed to have the spirit of Selena, but not her look.

The exciting selection of the two Selenas occured in a creative manner: on national T.V. The television show "Cristina" was the place where the two Selena's were to be elected. the 6 finalists came on the show, did a Selena number and where given a short interview. They all deserved the part, because they all loved Selena and wanted to pay tribute to her. But at the end of the show only two were able to get the part...

    

Above l: The star of the show, Veronica Vasquez has been selected to play Selena.

Above r: Rebecca Valadez will be Veronica's alternative on Weekend and matinee performances

The two Selenas who were selected  were Veronica Vasquez and Rebecca Valadez, both non-spanish speaking singers/actresses. Veronica will be the star of the musical. Her background includes abpout 5 years singing experience, she even has a CD entitled: "Rise". Rebecca also has singing backgrounds, as she performed background vocals for Janet Jacksons Velvet World Tour. 

Two more Selenas were selected to portray her as a young child. These lucky young girls were: Denise Stefanie Gonzalez from Los Angeles and Lorissa Chapa from Corpus Christi.

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Becoming "Selena" for the stage:

For Veronica, being chosen as Selena would require a lot of work. Unlike Jennifer Lopez who lip-syched in the film, she would have to sing all of Selena's songs on stage almost nightly for approx one year. If that were enough you should take into consideration the fact that she must learn the choreography and do that nightly as well. The play would require all of her abilities as an actress and a performer to be able to bring Selena on stage again.

Top: Veronica rehearses for the show, she must sing and dance 

at least 11 numbers per night

Veronica was asked on "Debra Duncan" what she did for the role. She said that she spent time with her family to see how she lived and who the people she was closest with. Veronica echoed Jennifer Lopez by saying that learning to dance like her was the biggest challenge. Veronica was an experienced dancer on stage long before she got the role of Selena, so again it was hard for her to switch styles so drastically.

"Selena Forever" required Veronica to play Selena at various ages very quickly throughout the 2hr+ show. This is one of main reasons the play is so much more difficult than the film. Multiple wardrobe and hair changes had to be done almost in a snap, where in a film different scenes are done in weeks and months.

For the actress her self, she does not have the luxury of a director yelling "cut" when she messes up, she must do it right the first time and if she messes up she must keep going...

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The Premiere of "Selena Forever":

Above: Veronica Vasquez during rehearsals of the "Houston Astrodome Concert" scene

Critics from across the nation flew into San Antonio that March 21, 2000 to finally see the most anticipated musical of the year: "Selena Forever".

After over a year in planning and production, the multi-media musical was going to have its World Premiere in San Antonio's Municipal Auditorium. Scheduled to be there were The Quintanillas,  Edward J. Olmos, and Jennifer Lopez. Selena was going to be on stage once more.

The results, as always with Selena, were success and great acceptance. Critics announced: "A Success, powerful and honest" and "definitely broadway bound!"  

"Selena Forever" was a new window into the life of Selena, a way that was never seen before. The musical was scheduled to go to Dallas, Corpus Christi, Chicago, Los Angeles,  and San Diego. All the performances in the first three cities were a success. But before its Los Angeles Premiere something unimaginable happened...

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The Abrupt Ending of "Selena Forever":

"Los Angeles Run of 'Selena Forever' Canceled" 

-Read the front page of the ARTS section in the Los Angeles Times.

The musical was originally scheduled to play in Los Angeles at the 2,000 seated Wiltern Theater. That engagement was canceled by the producers because the 6.000+ Universal Amphitheater convinced the producers that they should move the production to their venue because they have more experience in promoting latin themed shows. Selena played and sold out the entire amphitheater in August, 1994.

One week before the show was scheduled to open Universal canceled and broke their contract with the producers, due to what they said were "low ticket sales". However, things were not that simple. The producers wanted a two-week run at the venue but the venue said No. Adding to that was the terrible lack on promotion by the venue. A few commercials, and I do mean few (I only saw one, of the few) were shown through out the two months that tickets were on sale. 

Promotion was said to be so bad that K-LOVE a MAJOR Spanish Music radio station that carries Selena's music constantly did not even know the play was coming to L.A! The president said on "Primer Impacto" that in a city with over 2,000,000 latinos, it is impossible not fill those shows. Selena fans echoed his comments on the news.

The tour was unable to continue due to the fact that producers were counting on the L.A funds for their economic needs and continue the tour.

Selena Forever LTD., the production company for the musical took legal action for the broken contract. Robert Trevino said that he had high hopes of continuing on with the musical.

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The Re-birth of "Selena Forever": "Selena: Celebration Of Life"

After an absence of almost a year, "Selena Forever" returns to the stages of Hollywood as "Selena: Celebration Of Life". This time Peter Fitzgerald, the head producer, decided to play at a smaller venue which he felt was more appropriate. "I always felt the size of ...Wiltern and....Universal Amphitheater were too big of a scale for a broadway style show.

Above: A sketch from TvYNovelas when it was proposed to change the name of theater to Montalban, and to

have the Selena Musical to premeire there.

The new location of the musical would be the 1,000 seat Ricardo Montalban Theater on Hollywood and Vine. The producers said it was very appropriate to have the musical premeire there since it was named after such an important Hispanic Figure. Ticket prices have also been lowered a small bit for the target audience since they come in mostly groups or large families. It wouldnt be a "good idea" to have broadway prices at this small venue, he said.

Along with a new venue and name, the production has undergone some changes. There is a new director, Danny Valdez, who once played Selena's father. Under his direction the pacing of action and transition from scene to scene was improved dramatically. Also, more spanish has been added to the once all-english production to appeal more to the latino audience.

So after all of the shows struggle, it will still premeire in Hollywood. It will have a two month run at Montalban, with a possible one-year extension. The tentative premiere date is set at: February 14, 2001. After its L.A run it will finish the tour it once started and hopefully end up on the stages of Broadway sometime soon.

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2000 Playbill Credits:***

Tom Quinn, Jerry Frankel, Michel Vega, Peter Fitzgerald

present

"Selena Forever"

starring:

Veronica Vazquez

Daniel Valdez   Margo Reymundo    David Casanova   Maxx

and

Rebecca Valadez

as "Selena" at selected performances

Executive Producers:

Forbes Candlish

Choreographed By:

Kevin Patterson

Directed By:

William Alejando Virchis

***Please note that the credits probably have had changes for this new version of the play, I will be attending the musical upon its L.A premiere in where I will make all necessary changes.

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