#BehindtheCurtain: Get to Know Richard Dueñez Morrison
As the opening of Xanadu rapidly approaches, our amazing stars are diligently learning the iconic 80’s classics that make this musical what it is. None of that would be possible though without our talented resident music director, Richard Dueñez Morrison! Richard has been working with SDMT as the resident music director since 2021 and we’re so thrilled to have him as part of the SDMT family. Beyond his role here, Richard has worked as a voice teacher, theatre educator, and music director across San Diego and nationally. Keep reading below to get to know this amazingly talented individual before you see his work truly shine in a few weeks on the SDMT Stage!
What inspired you to get into musical theatre?
I started playing classical piano in fourth grade, so I always loved music. In tenth grade I did my first theater show, which was No, No, Nanette at SDSCPA, directed by Ole Kittleson. I was head of props. I had a blast organizing everything. The atmosphere backstage, all the excitement and concentration, was the most fun I’d ever had. And Arne Christiansen’s full orchestra playing all those songs. That overture changed my life. Yeah, so I was hooked. My first career was in stage management, which I studied in high school and undergrad. But I almost always stage managed musicals, not straight plays, because music is where it’s at. Eventually I transitioned to music directing, which, in hindsight, was a logical evolution.
What made you want to music direct Xanadu? Does the show have any special meaning to you?
I’m obsessed with this show. I saw the New York production, and got to sit onstage, where Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman messed with my then-boyfriend and me. The show was one of the purest doses of brilliant silliness I had ever experienced. I had never seen the movie, even though I knew a bunch of the pop singles that came from it. I eventually saw the movie, which is a total mess. The script is just horrible. But those songs, performed by Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, were and still are genius pop writing. So this stage musicalization of the movie keeps the good stuff (the songs) and switches out a boring script for a hilarious script, and here we are!
If you could tell the audience anything about the show, what would it be?
The movie stinks, but the stage musical is a blast!
What’s one 80s trend that you’d love to see come back?
That’s easy: the side ponytail.
What’s your favorite scene or number in the show?
This is really hard, but maybe “Have You Ever Been Mellow?” That melody just gives me so much joy. But I could say the same about “Xanadu” or “Suspended in Time” or “I’m Alive” or……..
What’s your dream role or dream show to music direct?
A dream show to music direct is Caroline, or Change.
If you were a muse, what would you be the muse of? (i.e. the muse of comedy, the muse of great haircuts, etc.)
The muse of cheese and rest!
Do you have any epic roller skating stories? If not, what’s your favorite jam that you would love to roller skate to at the rink and why?
I’ve worn roller skates once in my life, and it was decades ago. But if I was a roller skater, I’d want to roller skate to this soundtrack. Seriously. Or maybe some Talking Heads or early Madonna.
Xanadu Creative Team:
Director: Jason Blitman
Choreographer: Allison Bibicoff
Music Director: Richard Dueñez Morrison
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