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Rita Morena on New York, theater and the Puerto Rican Day Parade

It took a few tries, but Rita Moreno will be the face of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade as this year's grand marshal.

"I had been asked in the past to be part of the parade, but every single time they asked I was busy, I could never say yes," says Moreno, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to NYC when she was five.

That's not to say the 83-year-old actress and singer isn't busy now. She's recently appeared on TV in "Jane the Virgin" and is doing voice work for the upcoming animated children's show "Nina's World" on Sprout.

She is also wrapping up work on a new album in Spanish, "Rita Moreno: Otra Vez," produced by Emilio Estefan and being released by Sony this year.

"It's a beautiful album, glorious songs, gorgeous and romantic," says Moreno, who sings an arrangement of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" -- her breakout film that got her an Oscar -- on it. "It's a beautiful musical arrangement. For some reason it's even more soulful in Spanish."

When not on the road, the actress lives in Berkeley, California, near her daughter and two grandchildren, though still keeps her apartment near Lincoln Center.

"I have to get my dose of New York all the time," Moreno says. "When you get off the plane, you can feel a charge of energy. It's odd almost, but you know you're in New York."

On her must-list for this visit: going to the High Line and seeing a couple Broadway shows.

"Whenever I come into New York, I just spend a lot of money seeing plays, which I love," says Moreno, whose own Broadway credits include "The Ritz," which got her the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. "I love, love theater."

During this trip, she was hoping to see the musicals "Something Rotten!" and "American in Paris" -- both for a third time.

"I laughed so hard [at 'Something Rotten!]," Moreno says. "It's hilarious, wildly funny. The audience goes nuts. I've never seen anything like it."

"An American in Paris" reminds the actress of the way musicals used to be, "only the ante has been upped way, way up."

"The sets are fantastic and the dancing, oh my god, I don't remember when I saw such glorious dancing," Moreno says. "[Director and choreographer] Christopher Wheeldon should be bronzed, like baby shoes. I want him to stick around forever. I think the Broadway world has really found the next Jerome Robbins, as a number of critics have said."

And of course, there's the big parade on Sunday.

"I'm very proud, being a grand marshal sounds like it's going to be great fun," Moreno says. "I know that I have a very loving following in the Hispanic community. This is the third act of my life and it's the perfect time to do something like this."


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