On Stage

Tall Guy in the Back Takes Center Stage

By JP Emerson

Berto Fernández came to San Diego back in 2016 hoping to leave the chaotic Vegas lifestyle and discover what California had to offer. “I was between Los Angeles and San Diego, but after doing some research, I found that the Theatre scene here (in San Diego) is truly remarkable. Plus, to be honest, I’ve never thought LA was my vibe.”, he explains. The self-proclaimed nomad has travelled the world and the states performing for cruise lines, theme parks, television shows, regional theatres. For the past few years, he has taken the San Diego Theatre scene by storm, and has starred in numerous musicals and plays like Rock of AgesCatch Me if you CanIn the HeightsNext to Normal, and Evita, just to name a few.

One of the Theatre companies that has embraced and featured the actor during his trajectory is Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, San Diego. As part of their popular Musical Monday’s series, Fernández was asked to produce and star in his own show. “I didn’t hesitate. I immediately said yes and started working on the concept and song list for it.”, he added. 

Tall Guy in the Back, as Berto named his cabaret, will feature the actors’ journey as he moves to New York from his hometown of Puerto Rico in hopes of achieving his Musical Theatre dreams. There, he is made very aware that his physical appearance and stature (Berto stands at 6’5”) would hinder his chances of making it on Broadway. Through self-discovery and a return to his roots, he embraces everything that makes him unique,and special. “My entire life I’ve been told to stand in the back, or try to blend in, or that there’s something not quite right about my size. You can be the strongest human, and it will still sting. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to love my stature, and even see it as an asset in this business.”, mentioned Fernández.

The hour-long cabaret style show will feature some of the artist’s favorite songs. Most of them, he has sung throughout his career, and they seamlessly weave his life story through song. The actor shared some insight on the process of choosing a repertoire for these types of concerts. “You have to think of your audience. What is going to keep them engaged in the story? What songs do I feel a true connection with? The order of them is important too. When performing in a Musical, chances are you have a few songs to take a breather, here, it’s just you, so you have to make sure you pick comfortable keys, and strategically place the hardest tunes to avoid fatigue. Doing a solo show is no joke.”, he adds. The show will have a varied selection ranging from Pop, Rock, Musical Theatre, and even a song in Spanish. “I’m a very proud Gay Puerto Rican, so I wanted to make sure that both aspects of my life were featured in the show. Singing in Spanish is something that hits to your core. I experienced it during Evita, when we translated a few of the verses, and it gave a more genuine and authentic feel to the piece. It just comes from a different place within your soul.”, explained Fernández.  

Joining him on stage will be Luke H. Jacobs, most recently seen in the acclaimed Cygnet production of Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, and Vanessa Orozco, who wowed audiences as Mistress in Evita. Patrick Marion will serve as the Musical Director of the evening, as well as the accompanist. Long-time Cygnet donor Wendy Nash is sponsoring the series.

Berto mentioned that he thinks this show will resonate with a lot of people, particularly the LGBTQ+ Community. “The current political climate is not the happiest or most promising for our people. This narrative of suppression hinders society’s ability to grow and progress as one human race. Being bullied or rejected for who you are is never ok, and it is important that we continue to stand up for ourselves and our community. Get out there and VOTE! Let your voice be heard. You matter.”, he said. Fernández also talked about how important the Arts are for our world, and he encourages people to continue going to the Theatre and Live Events, so we don’t lose that sensitivity that is so important to our development as humans. “If you were ever told to stand in the back, hide who you are, dim your light… take a deep breath, and stand even taller, be bolder, radiate brighter light, because you were born to be BIG.”, the artist concluded.

Tall Guy in the Back will be a one-night event on Monday, July 22, 2024, at 7PM at Cygnet Theatre, and tickets are already available at cygnettheatre.org.