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Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva returns as Bernardo in ‘West Side Story’

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva returns as Bernardo in ‘West Side Story’
Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva (in center) plays Bernardo in “West Side Story.” (Photo: Photo courtesy of Fiddlehead Theatre)

For actor and dancer Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, who was born in the town of Manatí on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, the role of Bernardo in the musical “West Side Story” really resonates for a couple of reasons.

First, both the actor and the character are Puerto Rican.

Secondly, Quinones-Villanueva says, “I really love the role, how a person needs to stand out when others are trying to step on them. The weird looks that other people give [them] because they’re not from the United States. I can really identify with that, and the Bernardo role actually always reminds me of my dad as well.”

A veteran of the 2008 Broadway revival of “West Side Story” under the direction of legendary playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents, and a member of the international tour, Quinones-Villanueva is starring in the Fiddlehead Theatre Company’s production of the timeless musical at the Strand Theatre, where the final performances are this Friday through Sunday, October 23–25.

If you go

Performance tickets for West Side Story are $25-$45 with special discounts available for seniors, students and Dorchester residents. Group discounts for groups of 15 or more are available. To purchase tickets, visit or call the box office at 617-229-6494.

Quinones-Villanueva has been dancing since the age of 14, starting with talent shows in Puerto Rico when the government held auditions for a young teenagers’ company. His folklore teacher took him to the audition, but at the time he actually didn’t know what it was for. He passed the audition, and from that point started training and performing.

The turning point for him in becoming a professional dancer came when he was flown to New York for a show for the company, and saw his first musical there. “It was ‘Cats.’ That changed my life,” he remembers clearly. “How can people do this and live?”

Since then, the dancer, who’s skilled in numerous genres of dance, including contemporary, jazz, and hip-hop, has performed professionally with Ballet Concierto, Ballet San Juan, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Ballet Teatro Nacional de Puerto Rico and the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

A cum laude graduate of the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in Education, Quinones-Villanueva has also appeared in a production of “Man of La Mancha” at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and on the television show “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and has performed with international recording artists Marc Anthony, Olga Tañón, La India, and the late Celia Cruz.

After “West Side Story” wraps, Quinones-Villanueva is on to his next gig, heading to Florida in November to play the older Billy in the play “Billy Elliott.”

As for the best piece of advice he’s received about entering his profession, his response is simply, “Enjoy what you do.”

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