Today, Claudia Mulet has a thriving life in New York City as a performer and photographer whose bio includes multiple Broadway titles. But this Cuban-born actress has come a long way from her Havana suburb since she decided to audition for the first Broadway show brought to Cuba in over 50 years – Jonathan Larson’s Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning musical, Rent. Claudia also stars in the new film, Revolution Rent, executive produced by Neil Patrick Harris, produced by the Netherlanders and co-directed by Andy Señor Jr. and Victor Patrick Alvarez. The film follows Andy Señor Jr.’s journey to Cuba and the lives of the Cuban actors in the show. HBO debuts Revolution Rent on June 15 with subsequent streaming available on HBO Max. Claudia sits with us to share her American Dream, what it was like to be in Rent and why it was so hard to leave Cuba – even for Broadway.
Growing up in a simple, but charmed bohemian setting in Casino Deportivo, a Havana suburb, about 20 minutes south of Old Havana, her mother, Illeana Mulet, was (and still is) a well-known and respected Cuban painter. Claudia’s childhood memories are flooded with images of neighborhood friends, school, and playing with her cousins at her Abuela’s house, who lived just a couple of blocks away. “Yo era una niña intranquilla” she tells me, meaning she was restless (full of energy), and her mother didn’t know what to do with her!
As an actress in Cuba, you can imagine the excitement she and the performing arts community felt when they heard that a Broadway show was coming to town.
Her mother, being the artist that she was, channeled Claudia’s energy by keeping her in the arts. After school, she rotated her through every artistic opportunity available – piano, guitar, dancing, acting. When this wasn’t enough, she tried sports – squash and triathlon! Through all this discovery, Claudia fell in love with flamenco and would later join the Lizt Alfonso Ballet Company of Cuba and gain her degree in acting from the Institute of Art in Havana.
As an actress in Cuba, you can imagine the excitement she and the performing arts community felt when they heard that a Broadway show was coming to town. Excited, nervous, and determined, Claudia auditioned and made the cut. However, with all the training she and the Cuban cast had on their resumes, performing in a Broadway show was like nothing they had ever experienced.
The film Revolution Rent, documents how demanding the production was, from both a physical and cultural perspective.
The film Revolution Rent, documents how demanding the production was, from both a physical and cultural perspective. Although Cuba is known for the Arts, Claudia explains how Cuban performances, musical or not, always have a bit of an improv element to them. While actors learn a part, they’re encouraged to “make it their own.” Every night could feel different, depending on the audience or mood backstage. She further explains the difference. “Broadway is a calculated machine with every single movement, breath and blink choreographed.”
Revolution Rent perfectly captures all the passion (and drama) experienced by the cast. It also goes deep into Andy Señor Jr.’s personal journey of fulfilling his dream of bringing Rent to Cuba, the homeland of his exiled parents. The release of the film coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original musical’s debut on Broadway when Señor Jr. started his career by playing the role of Angel. You’ll have to watch the film to see if the Cuban cast was able to “Broadway” as Claudia puts it.
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After Rent in Cuba, Señor Jr. challenged Claudia to think bigger and expand her horizons by auditioning for a Broadway Show, none other than On Your Feet, the popular show about the life of legendary Cuban American singer, Gloria Estefan. Despite the opportunity, Claudia admits she hesitated to leave the island, her family and community. She admittedly felt depressed, but after receiving encouragement from one of her biggest fans – her dad – she decided that she wanted to be a person who could say, “I tried” and not “I should have.” So, she did and she got the part in On Your Feet and then one in In The Heights. Despite missing Cuba so much, she’s proud that she pushed past her fear to try. “Sometimes it’s scary, but you have to try,” she said confidently.
As for her American Dream, she’s creating it. During COVID, she dove back into painting, is producing, creating NFT art and starting to build her very own Bohemian circle as a New Yorker.
Save the date: HBO debuts Revolution Rent on June 15 with subsequent streaming available on HBO Max.
And join Startup Cuba for a special interview with Claudia Mulet and co-director Victor Patrick Alvarez on Tuesday, June 22 at 7pm EST/4pm PST.