West Side Story
by Leonard Bernstein Conductor: Rob Fisher Director/Choreographer: Joshua Bergasse
IU Musical Arts Center
April 9, 10, 17 and 18
Indiana University graduate students Jami Leonard of Carmel, Indiana and Emily Stokes of Covington, Louisiana take turns playing the part of Maria in the Indiana University Opera Theater’s production of West Side Story. The two sopranos met as fellow cast members during the IU production of She Loves Me.
“I Twice Met A Girl Named ‘Maria…’”
The singers agree that Maria is a wonderful and challenging role. “For me, the challenge of Maria is the incredible emotional change and growth from the young innocent at the beginning to the tragic survivor at the end,” says Leonard. She adds, “it’s quite ‘rangy,’” in other words, Maria’s songs cover a wide register of notes, high and low.
Stokes tells us, “I come from a background in musical theatre. Here at IU, I’ve been working very hard on technique and classical approaches to tone production and support. Part of my challenge is to use that as a foundation for Maria’s voice.”
Neither of the women considers herself a dancer. Leonard observes, “actually, Maria doesn’t have to do that much dancing. She’s more of an observer in those sequences even when she’s on stage.” “Yes,” Stokes agrees. “We get to mostly be amazed by the students from ballet, modern dance and the Theatre Department.”
The guest conductor for West Side Story is Rob Fisher; the stage director and choreographer is Joshua Bergasse. “It’s amazing to see Josh’ Bergasse working with the dancers,” says Stokes, and Leonard agrees: “They are both deeply into musical theatre and very active on the professional scene.”