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In 1939, Diosa Costello became the first Latina on Broadway. (© 1978 Maurice Seymour / mptvimages.com)

Q and A With Diosa Costello

The first Latina on Broadway dishes on her career and how she got her breakout role in South Pacific

Now, general rehearsal is just like if the show went on. No matter what mistake you make, you go on. We were at some kind of theater in Cleveland, because we were going to open there before we came to Broadway. Dick Rodgers [of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein] was a very quiet man, very proper. But he knew his business. So at dress rehearsal one night while I’m singing “Bali Ha’i,” which is a very difficult song, I hear “Stop!” And I think, “Holy Toledo, what the hell did I do?” I thought it was something I had done wrong. He says to me, “You’re not singing right. You’re not singing like yourself.” So I told him that the musical conductor had been coaching me. So he went over to the musical conductor and said, “Stop coaching her, I don’t care if she can sing right. She stops my show and that’s all that matters.”

What advice do you have for young performers?
You gotta be sure of what you’ve got. This is what the old performers had that the new performers don’t. If you go on stage thinking, “I’m Diosa Costello, you’re going to like me,” you’re going do it right. If you go out there a little bit shaky and unsure of what you’re doing, it’s not going to come out right.

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