Tony Taccone Teams Up With John Leguizamo

Tony Taccone finishes up his 21 years as artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre (and the company’s 50th season) with a bang.


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Katherine “KC” Dela Cruz, Jesús E. Martínez, and Desiree Rodriguez kick up their heels in Kiss My Aztec!

Photo by Cheshire Isaacs/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Tony Taccone is finishing his 21 years as artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre (and the company’s 50th season) with a bang, collaborating with stage and screen star John Leguizamo on Kiss My Aztec!, a new musical comedy about Aztecs standing up to Spanish conquistadors. Salsa and hip-hop meet Elizabethan dialect and modern slang in a playful celebration of Latinx culture.

Based on an original screenplay by Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky, the musical has a book by Leguizamo and Taccone, music by Benjamin Velez and lyrics by David Kamp, Velez and Leguizamo. Taccone also directs.

A justly acclaimed stage director who’s kept up a high standard of excellence at Berkeley Rep in his tenure as artistic director, Taccone has been gradually finding his land legs as a playwright in recent years, specializing in collaborations. He made his playwriting debut with the script for Rita Moreno’s autobiographical show Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup (Berkeley Rep, 2011). Taccone also wrote Ghost Light, a drama about former Cal Shakes artistic director Jonathan Moscone (who directed the play) grappling with the death of his father decades later, which played (Berkeley Rep, 2012). Taccone co-wrote the sports comedy Game On with Dan Hoyle (San Jose Rep, 2014) and adapted the Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here with Bennett S. Cohen (Berkeley Rep, 2016).

In addition to his many film roles (Romeo + Juliet; To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar), Leguizamo is an acclaimed solo theater artist going way back to the early ’90s with Mambo Mouth. Taccone directed his show Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep in 2016. For this one, though, he’s strictly offstage while a cast of New York actors (plus local musical theater performer Katherine “KC” Dela Cruz) bring it to life. 

Kiss My Aztec!, May 28-Jul. 14, Tue., Thu., Fri., Sat. 8 p.m.; Wed., Sun. 7 p.m.; Sat., Sun. 2 p.m.; $40-$115, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-647-2949, BerkeleyRep.org.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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