Kevin Del Aguila is a man of many talents. A longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident, Kevin currently stars in Broadway’s Some Like it Hot — while down the block, his show Dog Man: The Musical plays at New World Stages. This is Kevin’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I come from California. I went to grad school at Temple University in Philadelphia, and then moved to New York to be an actor. I had one friend who lived in Hell’s Kitchen and whenever I visited New York, I automatically thought, “Well, that’s where I’m going to live. I’m going to find a place in Hell’s Kitchen.” I came here and I’d see signs that said, “Apartment for Rent” on the door, and I was so naive. I was just like, “Yeah, I want a one bedroom — it’d be great to have a terrace. I’ll stretch to $300 a month!” And then I’d see an apartment with a bed in the kitchen. But I wound up with a studio on W47th Street and I lived there for years and years. And now I’ve been in Hell’s Kitchen for my entire New York life!
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was really weird. I had a friend from high school whose father worked at Sears and needed someone to help out in the warehouse. When I got there on my first day, he was like, “Take these big plastic bins and drive them to our other store in Barstow, California.” I had just gotten my license very recently. So I hopped in my little Volkswagen Bug and drove through the desert with these giant plastic bins.
I’d always been interested in theater. My mother took me growing up and fostered my love of the performing arts. It was always something that I thought, “Oh, I can do that.” In California I was in community theater and then I also did college theater. When I was in Philadelphia, I got my equity card at the Walnut Street Theatre doing Cyrano de Bergerac.
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When I moved to New York as a young character actor, I and all my unemployed actor friends would put up self-produced work at little theaters in Hell’s Kitchen — most of them are gone now. One of them was at the Judith Anderson that was on Theatre Row, and it led me to writing a show called Altar Boyz that first ran at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre — right on the street where I lived. It was so great to get to walk by the show and think, “I wrote that!”. It then ran Off-Broadway for almost five years at New World Stages, and that all happened in Hell’s Kitchen.
Even though I was a young character actor trying to perform and nobody wanted me, the people that did want me were children’s theater companies. They were like, “We need character actors to play cows and dogs!” I worked with this company called Theatreworks USA — they gave me my first acting jobs in New York. And I’ve worked for them ever since as a writer, as a director and as a performer. They were a great training ground. I felt that when one door shuts, another one opens — and I was going to run through the open doors. And that’s what led me where I am today.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
We were in previews for Some Like it Hot and I was walking home along 44th Street, when I hear this old woman yelling at people on the street — as old women are wont to do on 44th Street. Everybody’s ignoring her and walking past her. But as I walk past, I hear her saying, “Nobody’s helping me, I need help.” And I turned around and I saw, oh — she parked her car on the street and the hotel had piled up all these garbage bags in front of the car so she couldn’t get in. There’s a ton of garbage bags in front of her car. She couldn’t get into her car. I said, “I’ll help,” and I started lugging all of these garbage bags out of the way. She started to thank me when all of a sudden she looks at me and she goes, “Hey, I just saw you in the show! You were fantastic. I had the greatest time of my life!” And I was like, this is the most New York thing ever — this woman is treating me like a Broadway star while I’m lugging giant bags of garbage on the street. And I was like, this is a new one.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
There are memories on every corner. They call it the “Crossroads of the World”, but it really is — I can’t walk down 9th Avenue without bumping into somebody I’ve at some point met in my life or worked with, and I do love that. I love reconnecting with people. That doesn’t happen somewhere like LA. In LA, you drive through roads, you never see anyone — and here, you may have to avoid someone, but you also run into people you want to see! One time I was walking down 9th Avenue with a friend and I ran into someone I knew on every block and she asked if I was the mayor.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I don’t know that I have any — because I do so many different things. People are always like, “Wait a minute, I thought you were a performer?” You’re right. “Wait a minute, you’re a writer?” You’re right. And so depending on who I’m working for, they’re always kind of like, “Wait a minute, you have this other life that we don’t know anything about!” I’ve been very lucky to be able to balance my writing and performing careers.
What else should we know about you?
Working on Some Like it Hot has been one of the greatest experiences. Before the pandemic, I was in readings of it and recorded demos for Marc and Scott. We were supposed to go to Chicago out of town, and then — COVID. That was scrapped. The pandemic hit and we stuck it out in Hell’s Kitchen throughout — we were here when things were really weird, sad, and really scary, when the air could kill you.
The next Some Like it Hot reading was the first performance that I did coming out of the pandemic. Everyone was six feet apart, everyone had their masks on, everyone was really, really nervous. But the joy of hearing Marc playing those songs — you just soaked it in and you were like, “Ah, it’s the sounds of life coming back.” I feel like everything since that point has been that experience. The show is vibrant, it’s alive and it’s exactly what everybody needs. And being in the middle of that has just been a joy.
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Kevin’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Broadway doesn’t really have a place — it’s all these different buildings, but Shubert Alley is the place that feels like Broadway. It’s such a cool little area.
New World Stages — 340 W50th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Dog Man is there now, Altar Boyz was there, and when Peter and the Starcatcher transferred to New World Stages, I went there with it. I’ve directed musicals at the National Alliance for Musicals conference there too. I keep winding back up there.
Pier 84 Dog Run — 500 12th Avenue (end of W44th St)
My son desperately wants a pet and he’s allergic, so we go to the Pier 84 dog park and live vicariously. We wave, we name them, we say hello — it’s lovely and sad.
Joe Allen — 326 W46th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
It’s one of those places when I moved here I was like, “I couldn’t possibly go in that place.” And when you finally go in it feels so special. You have that feeling in New York where you’re like, “So much is happening in New York. I must be missing out on something.” I don’t feel that at Joe Allen — I always feel like I’m right where I need to be. They make you feel like “this is the spot.”
Sushiva — 615 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
There was a place on 8th Avenue that’s now closed where everyone used to get their sushi. Sushiva takes up that slack now — I go there all the time on the way to the theater.
Pier 96 and the Manhattan Community Boathouse
I love going there, especially now that it’s getting warm. We wandered over there and found these kayaks and couldn’t believe it was free. Suddenly we were kayaking in the middle of the Hudson!
Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Their greatest PR is right at the edge of the building — if you stand there and smell the pies, you have to go in. It instantly makes you feel good.
The Signature Theatre Lobby — 480 W42nd Street (bw Dyer/10th Ave)
I’ve written so many shows in the Signature Theatre lobby. Whenever I want to get out of my house, I get my laptop, get on their wi-fi, order up a little something from the cafe, and it’s lovely.
Yuri Cleaners — 347 W44th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
We’ve tried a lot of dry cleaners — we finally found Jay’s, who’s now moved down the street to W44th. They’re always so helpful and on top of it!
JMC Custom Framing — 676 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
He’s terrific! I’ve gotten a lot of show posters framed here, and he also displays artist work in the windows, which is great.
You can follow Kevin on Instagram @kevinoftheeagle. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.