The familiar and seductive rhythm of salsa music emanated from the stage doors to T-Mobile Arena as I jetted past them, in an attempt to keep up with a rather fit, cherry-haired publicist while dodging lighting crews and backup musicians. It wasn’t exactly the afternoon exercise I had in mind, but when international superstar Ricky Martin summons you to an in-person interview, you get up and hustle.
After my jog through the inner bowels of the arena, I arrived at a dimly lit greenroom where Mr. Martin was sitting ever so patiently in a slick and suave suit. He was there for Calibash, a concert that featured himself and 13 other Latin music acts—but that wasn’t what I was planning to talk about with the Puerto Rican icon. Just weeks before that January 26 megaconcert at T-Mobile, Martin announced his then-upcoming All In residency, which began on April 5, at Monte Carlo’s Park Theater.
With millions of records sold, Grammys on his résumé and a global popularity that cannot be denied, Martin was an obvious choice to further diversify the sparkling new venue’s lineup—Bruno Mars and Cher have already launched ongoing engagements at Park. Martin talked to Vegas Seven about the show’s production value, why offering Las Vegas audiences a bilingual show is important to him and his role-model status for the LGBT community.
Las Vegas is experiencing a residency trend right now, with Cher, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and more calling Strip theaters home. It almost hearkens back to the city’s Rat Pack days.
There’s something very special happening, huh? … We can’t compare, but at this point—Bruno, Jennifer, Britney—we’re doing things that people gravitate to. And we can put up a show in Vegas [that is] not limited, production-wise. What we can do [here] is the best thing that could happen to an artist. It’s the best thing that could happen to an audience that is used to amazing shows. It inspires me to become a greater artist.
Do you enjoy exploring and performing in Las Vegas?
I’m really looking forward to it. My entire family knows Vegas better than me, even though I’ve been here many more times. [Before], when I [would] come to Vegas, I [would] perform and leave. I was here maybe 15 years ago with my father, and we [were here for] three days. I did the typical thing of going hotel to hotel, walking down the Strip, and it was fascinating. I saw a couple of shows and saw Céline [Dion]. I remember I said, “One day I would like to do this. I want to feel the energy of this place and make it mine.”
What do you think your legacy will be within the Vegas entertainment landscape?
I have no idea yet, but I’m telling you that the plan that we have is for people to be able to talk about my show for a while. We’re going to do things with substance—things that make people think—but at the same time, I want people to have fun. An hour and 45 minutes of highs and lows, but at the end you will definitely feel the Carnival atmosphere. We’re going to bring very Latin sounds, [including] Afro-Caribbean—sounds I grew up with. We’re going to infuse [that] with the Anglo sounds that I’ve been working with for so many years. It’s going to be a very special show.
I am not a purist. I am fusion and I have fun with it. … Language has never been an issue for me. The important thing is for people to leave with something.
I’ve recorded in Portuguese, I’ve recorded in French and Italian. I recorded in Filipino—in Tagalog—once. And in Spanish and English. … Sometimes I start singing in English and I’m like, “Oh, I’m in Spain and I’m singing in English. I don’t know why, but that’s OK! No problem.” I’ve never been criticized for not being politically correct because I’m singing in the wrong language.
What do you think about your new home, Park Theater?
It’s the most beautiful theater. … When I walked into the [venue] and I saw what home was going to look like, it was just so amazing. Did you see the mouth of that stage? It’s massive! We’re talking stadium length—these are the measurements we use every time we’re going to do a stadium show. But yet it’s going to feel intimate. … We’re going to play with that duality. It’s going to be 23, 24 people onstage, from dancers [to] musicians. It’s going to be great.
As an international superstar, you coming out as a gay man in 2010 was part of a worldwide discussion. Does it cross your mind often that you’re a gay icon?
The amount of love that I’ve received since I came out, it’s one of those things where I go, “Why didn’t I do it earlier?” I did it when it felt right, before I was forced to come out. It was a heavy struggle. I finally saw the light and I’m so comfortable in my skin. The fears that I had in my head were just that.
As a gay man nowadays in the United States, do I feel fear? Yes. I am afraid, but I am going to turn that fear into action. More than ever, we need to use our social media to tell our congressmen, our senators, our president what needs to be done. [We need] to let them know that we’re not going back. All we want—it’s really basic— is respect. We need to be loud [now] more than ever.
Back to your residency: What are you looking forward to most?
I’m really looking forward to that first roar. I’m visualizing right now the opening, and that first “Aahhh!”—that’s what I’m looking forward to. The introduction to the show is pretty spectacular. I’m living for that first roar.
Ricky Martin: All In
April 7–8, 11, 14–15; June 23–24, 27, 29; July 1–2; September 12, 15–16, 19, 22–23; 8 p.m., prices vary, Park Theater at Monte Carlo, montecarlo.com