Singer and actor Raguel Gabriel continues to persevere with his dream to excel on stage. This US-based, Trinidad and Tobago artiste, is at ease with both prose and song, which led him to take on classic leading roles across several genres including opera, Shakespeare and musical theatre.
His quest for success and passion to perform have seen him among finalists in a Chicago vocal competition. He was recruited by a composer, who was impressed with his performance, to sing and act the romantic lead in The Gift, scheduled to open in December. He has also been successful at other music competitions this year in the US.
A graduate of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting NYC, Gabriel has been compared to the likes of Lupita Nyong'o – an observation, he explained, was made by playwright and producer Dr Cynthia Stephens (Sacred Ground Productions) for his lead role in the musical, The Princess and the Golden Yam, at the Broadway venue, Green Room 42 in New York City (2018). The story of this musical takes place in Africa and Nyong'o played the character that is the antagonist of the princess, said a media release.
“This was way before (Nyong'o) went to Yale to study and all that, and was still trying to find her way,” Gabriel said in an interview with Black Collar Creative.
“Dr Stephens remains one of my greatest mentors who applauds my work ethic. She even told me over dinner that my drive and the way I carried myself during rehearsals reminded her of how Lupita was. She has all the faith in me that I will excel on that level one day," he said in the release from Black collar Creative.
At the beginning of 2020, Gabriel was in pursuit of several theatre auditions that had lined up for him in New York, but the covid19 pandemic brought the need to wait or pivot. This was where mental and spiritual fortitude came to his rescue, along with commitment and ingenuity to keep the practice of his craft going, the release said.
“I have seen many things that seemed impossible, become a reality,” Gabriel shared. “It was only with crazy faith, hard work and belief in what I can do that helped me through. I stay on track as I balance both living in the moment and staying obsessively focused on my passions and dreams.”
When Broadway’s doors reopened in September 2021, Gabriel continued his career with an increased urgency and determination to succeed.
After Schwanengesang, Stephens invited Gabriel to reprise his role as Amadou for repeat performances of The Princess and The Golden Yam in October 2021 for the city of Hudson, NY, in collaboration with the Hudson Tourist Board.
He went on to do several auditions and vocal competitions in early 2022, including the Sinfonietta Bel Canto based in Downers Grove, Illinois, where he placed second in the orchestra’s vocal competition and performed at its final concert in June. He also auditioned for the CS Music Vocal Competition in Chicago in which he was selected as one of six finalists out of 1,300 singers from across the country performing Losing My Mind by Sondheim.
"After the finals, a man sought me out, visibly moved, saying he’d never heard Losing My Mind sung in that way. He turned out to be composer Paul Herman, who is based in Chicago.
“On the spot, he invited me to sing for him the next day at his studio as my voice was a perfect fit for an operetta he had written. He was waiting for the right person to sing and act the romantic lead. I was then given the score for The Gift. The plan is to stage it this Christmas and next year, starting in Indiana, Chicago and eventually New York."
Gabriel was also awarded the third prize in the world in the category of Tenor Soloists 23 years and up at the Marker and Pioneer (MAP) International Music Competition 2022 in Los Angeles, California. MAP is an organisation focused on promoting and hosting international cultural exchange and educational and musical projects.
The jury panel at the competition included Grammy Award-winning mezzo soprano and Metropolitan opera star Victoria Livengood; Christopher Russell MM, chair of music at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California and conductor of APU Orchestra; and Lin Yousheng, renowned conductor at the Shanghai Opera House/professor at Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Gabriel advised local performers seeking to transition to any other country that they should take no opportunity for granted and studiously pursue growth at every turn.
“I already had an insane work ethic back home in Trinidad, but I had to multiply that times ten when I got to the US,” he cautioned. “You’re going to have to be insanely driven and have reasons embedded in your heart that will keep you pushing through the toughness. The performing arts world is brutally competitive. So, embrace hard work.”
Over his ten-year career, the journey has been something of a marathon for Gabriel, but his devotion to the stage is absolute. Above all, he values the investment he made into his artistic and performing arts training as well as his day-to-day regimen both physically and vocally to maintain his fitness and performance health. His focus remains on what is to come and the importance of the work ahead, rather than his last accolade.
“My joy is in the doing. I am deeply motivated by the desire to keep growing and being better than I was the last time, as I move toward the goals I have set for myself in the future.”