Harrison School for the Arts graduate to appear in West Side Story movie

Yurel Echezarreta, 33, will be in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story for the first time on December 10.

Yurel Echezarreta reprized his role in West Side Story. Echezarreta, who graduated from Harrison School for the Arts in 2007, will once again be a member of the Shark Gang.

Echezarreta, 33, was in the 2009 Broadway adaptation of West Side Story and will now be in the Steven Spielberg adaptation. He was excited when his agent offered him the opportunity to audition.

“It was a very complete moment and Steven Spielberg was leading,” said Echezarreta. “I said I had to at least audition for this.”

Echezarreta studied musical theater at the University of Michigan until he landed a role in the Broadway adaptation of West Side Story.

“I was like I had to go,” Echezarreta said. “This is such an opportunity.”

He also landed a second role in La Cage aux Folles during the West Side Story production.

“That’s when I was like okay, I’m supposed to stay, I’m supposed to,” Echezarreta said. “After I do the first one, it’s like, okay, it’s awesome and all, but it would really boost my confidence if I got a second to let me know I can do it and the first is not a fluke.

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Yurel Echezarreta, 33, appeared in both a Broadway production and a film adaptation of West Side Story,

Yurel Echezarreta, 33, appeared in both a Broadway production and a film adaptation of West Side Story,

Make his debut

As a freshman, Echezarreta attended Auburndale High School where he participated in a group and focused on science to become a marine biologist or astronomer.

“I thought my career was going to be science-based,” Echezarreta said.

The summer before his 10th year changed his trajectory.

Echezarreta auditioned for a musical at the Lakeland Community Theater to stay productive during the summer and was accepted into both the dance and musical theater department.

“I chose musical theater because I love to sing, dance and act,” said Echezarreta.

Echezarreta thanks Harrison for putting him on the path to making his dream come true.

“I was getting leading roles at Harrison for the big musicals,” Echezarreta said. “I loved the whole experience. I said ‘this is what I’m going to do for my career. The stars have aligned.

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Yurel Echezarreta in Aladdin on Broadway in 2014.

Yurel Echezarreta in Aladdin on Broadway in 2014.

An act of faith ‘

Echezarreta said he faced internal turmoil when he made the decision to leave Auburndale for Harrison.

“I took a leap of faith,” he said. “This career is all about taking acts of faith and betting on yourself.”

Echezarreta was born in Miami but moved to Polk County with his parents, brother and sister at the age of eight and was inspired by it.

“My dad calls me and for the first five minutes of our phone conversation he’s like a lonely man and that’s it for me,” Echezarreta said. “And my mom is always behind me saying ‘you know what to do, you have to push yourself'”

Yurel Echezarreta, 33, was in Head Over Heels in 2018.

Yurel Echezarreta, 33, was in Head Over Heels in 2018.

Although he started his career with musical theater, Echezarreta grew to love cinema.

“I love the challenge and the differences of camera work where you have to be minimal and so realistic while filming being a character and looking at people – sniffing out anything that’s wrong,” he said. “I love the challenge of finding realism and truth. Acting for the movies.

Currently, Echezarreta has chosen to focus more on advancing his film career.

“Where I am in my life. I want to have a more free schedule so that I can travel more than I was on Broadway, so I can see my family, so I can come home for the holidays, ”Echezarreta said. “I feel like my life has expanded into film and television.”

Echezarreta had lived in New York from its first Broadway production until the start of the pandemic. After nine months with his family in Florida, he moved to Los Angeles in January.

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Yurel Echezarreta, 33, in Mathilde.  The show ran from 2013 to 2017.

Yurel Echezarreta, 33, in Mathilde. The show ran from 2013 to 2017.

In the moment

“I had dreamed of coming to LA for the last few years in New York City, but I was so engrossed in the Broadway machine that the program never really allowed me to make a trip across the country,” Echezarreta said. “It was really a big deal for me to make this transition and it took me a pandemic to start it.”

To avoid being overwhelmed by her busy schedule, Echezarreta focuses on the moment.

“I try to be happy,” he said. “I strive to be happy in the moment and to be happy where I am right now.”

West Side Story premieres December 10. And as he prepares for the red carpet event, Echezarreta takes time to reflect on this present moment.

“It’s a cool full loop moment. I can say that I had my experience on the West Side, ”said Echezarreta. “This show has helped my career in so many ways and I’m grateful for it.

Breanna Rittman writes news articles for The Ledger. Send your feature ideas to [email protected]

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Yurel Echezarreta reprise his role in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story”

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