Performing Arts

How this kid from Miami turned into a Broadway star who can come home again

Joey Barreiro in “A Bronx Tale.”
Joey Barreiro in “A Bronx Tale.”

Joey Barreiro wakes up in new city every few weeks. But this time, he’ll be waking up close to home.

The Broadway star is a Miami native and an alum of the University of Miami and Coral Reef Senior High. Now, he’s coming home again with a production of “A Bronx Tale.”

The show is at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.

Barreiro, 29, has lots of things to say about learning to perform in his hometown. We chatted with him about his time at UM and his life on the road just before his arrival for the show’s 12-day run in South Florida.

Q: What age did your start getting into doing theater?

A: I started first as a singer and a musician. At the end of high school, I was in chorus and sometimes we’d sing some musical theater stuff. That wasn’t really my bag until senior year when I realized I had to make a career out of something. I just wanted to try out acting. I got into a program for college, so I kind of started in college doing this.

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As a UM student, Joey Barreiro is instructed by Tony-winning star Tommy Tune before rehearsing “Project 54.” Miami Herald File

Q: What shows were you in in college?

A: My favorite show was called “Night Train to Bolina,” which was a play. It was directed by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz. He’s fantastic. He does a lot of stuff in Florida. And he’s Cuban. I’m Cuban, too, which is awesome. I also did some more popular stuff that people know. I played Angel in “Rent” once, which was absolutely a disaster. I did a show called “Pal Joey.” We did this other show with Tommy Tune directing called “Project 54.” My training at University of Miami was incredible. My best friends are all from that program. Still to this day, we’re all in New York.

Q: What do you miss most about Miami?

A: The constant good weather, obviously. It’s really great for your overall well-being when it’s not dreary all the time. In New York, everything is so close together, and you’re living right on top of your neighbors. In Miami, I had space and the sun and the water.

Q: How do you prepare for tour stops in cities that have actual winter, unlike Miami? A: I’m never prepared for it. I’m half Puerto Rican and half Cuban, so I’m not accustomed to the cold genetically. It’s always fun to deal with that, and to bundle up. And to cover my mouth as much as possible so I’m not breathing in cold, dry air.

Q: What was your favorite part about growing up in South Florida?

A: I had my family with me. My mom and my sister. Being around them as much as possible. Of course when I was growing up, I resented both of them. Now as an adult, I miss them and I don’t get to see them that much because I’m in a whole other state far, far away.

Q: What was the transition like going from college roles to professional ones?

A: A big thing thing that people talk about is being a big fish in a small pond. You’re in college and you’re booking lead roles and you’re feeling good about how you’re doing, and then you get to the city and you realize that you’re a nobody like everybody else. You start back at zero. You’re not as good as you think you are ... if you thought you were any good at all. It’s a really humbling experience. It really taught me early on, and to this day, that the only way I can stay sane in the business is if I make everything about the work only. And about the process. And have fun doing the process. Not focus on results. Results only come when you don’t think about them.

Q: What inspired you to start performing?

A: I kind of cheated because my sister was singing before me. She’s two years older than me. She started singing, and I wanted to be better than her. I wanted to be a rockstar for a long time. Didn’t work out.

Q: Like the whole “I can do that” schtick from “A Chorus Line?”

A: Exactly. Except I’m not a dancer.

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Joey Barreiro, right, as Jack Kelly in “Newsies.”

Q: So what was “Newsies” like being “not a dancer” in such a dance-heavy show?

A: It was a breeze because nobody asked me to dance. Nobody wanted to see me dance. I was playing Jack Kelly in that show, and Jack Kelly is running around throughout the whole production almost the whole time singing and trying to be entertaining somehow. But whenever the dancing came up, if I was doing anything, they put me in the back row. It was amazing because I got backstage tickets to watch these people throw their bodies around every night. The most incredible dancing, just amazing. And all those guys are still my brothers. Actually in “A Bronx Tale”right now, Josh Burrage, who was on that “Newsies” tour, is here with me right now. It’s great to have that family base wherever I go.

Q: How did you master the New York accents for “Newsies” and “A Bronx Tale?”

A: It’s quickly becoming my thing. My family is from Long Island, but they don’t really speak with heavy New York accents. I guess it’s genetic somehow. It got passed down to me.

Q: If you could play any part in a show right now what would it be?

A: George from “Sunday in the Park with George.” That’s my favorite show. Has been since college. Stephen Sondheim is the guy. He wrote all the best stuff, and all the stuff that actors want to be in. Actually. Not George. I would rather be Dot. Because she gets all the best stuff in that show.

Q: What’s the rehearsal process like when you’re touring?

A: We hardly rehearse when we’re on tour. We have some touch-up stuff.

Q: What’s the hardest part about being on tour?

A: Being away from New York City. Touring is kind of awesome. You get to stay in hotels, you don’t have to clean anything, you get to eat in all these fantastic cities.

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city?

A: The first thing I do is jump on the bed to check it out. In my hotel room. Or we do a lot of AirBnbs actually now, which is really great. I highly recommend anyone who’s traveling to do it. You get to stay in pretty great apartments if you have the right group. And they’re cheap. And I find food because we’ve probably been traveling for hours and I’m hungry.

Q: What do you do in your downtime on tour?

A: I have my guitar and piano with me. Not like a full-size piano. I play music, write music. Do a lot of reading. I buy a lot of books. It’s a big problem. My bank account hates me for it.

Q: How do you physically and mentally prepare for two show days?

A: When I was doing “Newsies,” that was a lot. I would sweat through my costumes. It would be pretty disgusting, and then I would have to get up and do it again. Just eating enough. Staying healthy and drinking a lot of water. All those kinds of things that the doctor tells you to do and sometimes you neglect to do them. I don’t like to go out partying. As long as I don’t do that, and don’t drink too much, I should be fine.

IF YOU GO

What: “A Bronx Tale” Bank of America Broadway in Fort Lauderdale 2018/2019 Season

When: June 11-23, 2019

Where: The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

Tickets: $40-$110 through Ticketmaster

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Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz, center, follows the actors action -from left- Ryan Phillips, Alanna Saunders and Joey arreiro, during a rehearsal of his early play ‘Night Train to Bolina’ that his also directing at University of Miami, where he is a scholar in residence this fall. Pedro Portal Miami Herald File / 2011
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