John Leguizamo polishes his new musical “Kiss My Aztec!”

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – During an afternoon rehearsal of “Kiss My Aztec!” by John Leguizamo, actor Joel Perez bursts out laughing…

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – During an afternoon rehearsal of “Kiss My Aztec!” of John Leguizamo, actor Joel Perez laughs during a steamy scene with co-star Krystina Alabado. They’ve probably done it hundreds of times. They know it by heart. But the scene is still just as funny as Perez loses it for a minute, making the entire cast and crew laugh.

“Keep going,” Tony Taccone orders from his seat. And after a few deep breaths, things move on.

With a book by Leguizamo and Taccone, “Kiss My Aztec!” begins previews Wednesday at Hartford Stage before opening June 10. This is his third leg after previous engagements at the Berkeley Repertory Theater and La Jolla Playhouse in California, and Broadway veteran Leguizamo hopes he’ll soon take ‘the B route’ and make it home to New York. .

“I think it’s so funny,” Leguizamo told The Associated Press just before rehearsal. “You’re going to get pissed off and, at the same time, you’re going to be educated.”

The show dates back to the 16th century, when a group of Aztecs led the resistance against the Spanish invaders. With a fierce female warrior at the helm and a not-so-fierce clown in tow, they mount a rambling attack and mingle with royalty, colonizers, pop stars and even puppets.

The music and lyrics – by Benjamin Velez and David Kamp – fuse salsa, gospel, hip-hop, funk and merengue, as well as flamenco and paso doble for the Spaniards. The choreography is by Maija García.

Like “Latin History for Morons,” Leguizamo’s final Broadway solo play, “Kiss My Aztec!” is a hilarious celebration of Hispanic and Latin culture. But unlike the others, this is his first large-scale musical and the comedian is staying behind the scenes this time.

“I can’t sing like that, or dance like that,” says the Tony Award winner, noting that he’s had success doing musical work – including Disney’s animated film “Encanto,” where he starred. voiced Bruno – with a lot of help, patience and self-tuning. “I mean, like, for ‘Encanto’, poor (composer) Lin-Manuel (Miranda) had to spend hours trying to get me in that pocket. He got me, however, he got me in his pocket,” he adds with a laugh.

Besides Perez and Alabado, the cast includes Chad Carstarphen, Eddie Cooper, Richard Ruiz Henry, Z Infante, Jesús E. Martínez, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Desireé Rodriguez, Matt Saldivar and Brittany Williams. Angelica Beliard, KC Dela Cruz, Nicholas Caycedo and Geena Quintos.

“These actors are ridiculously talented,” Leguizamo says, calling them a “quadruple threat” who can act, sing, dance and be funny.

The Colombian American actor and playwright, whose Broadway credits include ‘Freak’ and ‘Ghetto Klown,’ says he started working on the musical years ago when he was doing research for ” Latin History for Morons”.

“It’s interesting because obviously ‘Latin History for Morons’ opened up the world of our great and incredible contributions to the world – there wouldn’t be an industrial revolution without our corn, without our potatoes “, says Leguizamo. “Our gold that was stolen from us created the Age of Enlightenment, and the Renaissance was aided by the wealth that was stolen from us. So I learned a lot and wanted to go back and start telling our story. This musical is the birth of the Latin man, who is the conquest.

Going from monologues to a full-fledged musical was a “great challenge”, admits Leguizamo. “All I had to do before was check in with myself: ‘What’s your schedule?’ ‘Oh, I’m available.’ ‘Oh great. Let’s start tomorrow!’ he laughs. “It’s different, it’s a lot of moving parts.”

With its bawdy humor, adult themes, and salty language, the show may not be suitable for all audiences. But Leguizamo hopes it will be the next big thing in musicals.

“I want it to be like ‘The Book of Mormon,’ like ‘Spamalot,’” he says. “I want this to be one of the funniest shows ever written.”

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Sigal Ratner-Arias is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.

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