German Santiago: Dulles Kid Becomes Gang Leader in West Side Story

Sugar Land's German Santiago (center) in the Broadway touring production of West Side Story.
Sugar Land's German Santiago (center) in the Broadway touring production of West Side Story.
Joan Marcus

It doesn't matter that West Side Storycoming to the Hobby Center next week is about a half century old - the original Broadway show opened in '57 and the movie version in '61 (or centuries if we count Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet on which it's based). Actor German Santiago who plays Bernardo, Maria's brother and the leader of the Sharks, says it "still speaks true to things that are going on at this time."

"The show is about love and the inability of love to survive in a world of bigotry and violence. There's still prejudice right now. Right now the biggest issue is the Muslim situation," said Santiago. "There's still a lot of prejudice. There's still a lot of things dealing with Mexicans coming to this country. This is a story is about two people of opposite worlds coming together trying to keep a love alive."

This is the first national Broadway tour for Santiago who was born in Mexico City, grew up in Sugar Land where he graduated from Dulles High School, and went on to get a BFA in musical theater from Sam Houston State University. He's based in Los Angeles now where he says he's concentrating on doing TV and film work. But when the opportunity for this show came up (he'd done West Side Story in regional theater out of Sacramento about five years ago) he didn't hesitate to audition.

The show has been updated - some of the slang brought more up to date, and Spanish is spoken about 12 percent of the time - but Santiago says this shouldn't throw anyone. Even though Spanish was his first language, he and other cast members had to learn Puerto Rican pronunciations with the help of a dialect coach.

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Santiago said he first got involved in theater when as a sophomore he had to read some lines with a partner in an English class for extra credit. The teacher was so impressed, he said, "She walked me over to meet the director of the theater department at Dulles."

Involved in the show since August, Santiago is looking forward to performing in Houston where a lot of his relatives can watch him.

West Side Story brought to Houston by Gexa Energy/Broadway Across America runs at the Hobby Center January 12-23. For ticket information go to www.broadwayacrossamerica.com or www.thehobbycenter.org/ or call 1-800-982-2787.

L to R, Joseph J. Simeone, Kyle Harris and German Santiago in the Broadway touring production of West Side Story.
L to R, Joseph J. Simeone, Kyle Harris and German Santiago in the Broadway touring production of West Side Story.
Joan Marcus
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