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A Searing Passion for Life: An Interview with Altar Boyz' Clyde Alves

March 30, 2006 - by Maya Cantu

As Juan, the sultriest of the Altar Boyz, Clyde Alves brings both spice and spirituality to the adorably pious boy band that has taken its Raise the Praise tour to Dodgers Stages. 

Juan may give the highest priority to “La Vida Eternal” (as he informs us to a festive salsa beat) but he's not one to neglect life in the here and now either—especially when the here and now is filled with beautiful earth angels.

Alves, a multitalented performer who has appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Hairspray, Oklahoma ! and The Music Man , says that Juan is “full of passion for life and people. Especially the ladies.” Alves doesn't find it too contradictory that Juan is both an admirer of feminine beauty and a deeply religious person: “I certainly think one could be a good Catholic and Latin Lover at once,” he laughs. “The Spanish are not just passionate about love, there is a deep respect for all people that is part of the culture and how they are raised.”

Alves balances Juan's passionate commitment to God with his own skill as a performer in the pulsating number “La Vida Eternal,” which might have come fresh off a Ricky Martin album. The actor has no problem transmitting the song's sizzling Latin rhythms to an audience. “Latin music has certainly been a strong influence in my life for as long as I can remember. Both my mother and father are from Portugal and are musical themselves. At family get-togethers it was not uncommon to have my mother, aunts, uncles and grandparents singing and playing instruments, usually all Latin-influenced.” 

While Juan may display an undeniable zest for both music and life, the character's life is certainly not without its share of sadness. Alves states that Juan (who was found and raised by nuns in Tijuana) “is driven by the search to find and come in contact with his original birth parents…I fortunately have not had the burden of trying to find my birth parents but there is a constant search for life and it's meaning that I think many people have in common. I personally share this with Juan. I not too recently have also found the true meaning and importance of real friends to share life with,” he says of his ability to relate to Juan's journey.

Alves, while certainly putting his own stamp on the role, is the fourth actor to play Juan; he succeeded Ryan Duncan , Daniel Torres and Nick Sanchez . He finds that coming into a show as a replacement is difficult, but eagerly embraces the challenge. “The wheels of this show have been turning for quite a while now. The biggest challenge I faced in coming in was the feeling of jumping onto a speeding train. The show is so fast-paced that there is no time to stop and collect yourself once you start. I don't think I've ever done anything like that before. Being on stage for an hour and a half straight is exciting and tiring all at once.”

Alves wasn't required to expend his energy quite as intensely in his last Broadway appearance. Before becoming one of the Altar Boyz, he spent time in Oz among the ensemble of Wicked (and also understudied the role of Boq). “The change from Wicked to Altar Boyz was quite refreshing. Wicked remains an awesome show and my time there was special, but it's darker. The opportunity to sing, dance and act all at once in such an uplifting and well-written show such as Altar Boyz is always a pleasure for an actor and can be a rare one.”

Singing, dancing and acting are all skills in which the triple threat Alves has become quite proficient. “I've gotten to a point in my career where I feel equally comfortable (with all three). I think what I enjoy most is incorporating all of them into one piece,” says Alves, who is certainly taking advantage of that opportunity with Altar Boyz.  The actor, who has also appeared in touring and/or regional productions Fame the Musical, West Side Story and The Scarlet Pimpernel , would also love to try acting in a straight play.

Alves, who hails from Toronto , has spent much of his time on stage since high school, and first knew that he wanted to pursue performing professionally after playing The Leading Player in his school's production of Pippin: “From that moment on I knew I wanted to devote myself to the theater.” It wasn't long before the theater thanked him for his dedication. “I was in high school when I auditioned for the Toronto production of Beauty and the Beast and got cast. That was my first experience with working in the professional theater world.  What a magical time of discovery that was!”

With his performing career off to an auspicious start, Alves went on work with choreographer Susan Stroman on two shows. He played Jess in the 2002 revival of Oklahoma ! revival that she choreographed after making his Broadway debut as Tommy Djilas in her acclaimed 2000 revival of The Music Man .  The role of Tommy is not a small one (the character is the love interest of Zaneeta Shinn), and Alves very much enjoyed both his experience with the show and with learning from five-time Tony Award-winner Stroman. “She has a real talent for constructing her shows around her actors. She uses what they can bring to the table and directs them into an exciting piece…always fun!”

Alves would also play Tommy in the “Wonderful World of Disney” telemusical adaptation of The Music Man starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth . “It was quite a trip,” he says of the experience. “Performing in front of the camera in that way was completely new to me, and I learned so much from the wonderful cast of actors around me. Also, shooting the film in Toronto couldn't have been more special!”

As for the present, Alves is more than at home on stage playing Juan, who “burns with a searing passion for life.” Referring to the Soul Censor device that figures prominently in Altar Boyz , Alves notes “His metaphysical temperature has got to be way up there!”


Photos
1) Clyde Alves
2) At Kids' Night on Broadway; photo by Ben Strothmann
3) As Tommy in "The Wonderful World of Disney"'s The Music Man

 

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