Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon spoke to Emily about playing the role of Maria in West Side Story.

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Hi Emily,thanks for talking to Love London Love Culture. How are you enjoying playing Maria? Playing Maria is one of those iconic roles that you have at the top of your wish list when people ask you which musical theatre characters would you like to play. So, it’s been a pretty privileged experience!

What do you think of her as a character? Personally I think she has a lot going for her. She’s a dreamer but she also isn’t afraid of going out and getting what she wants. She is a girl brought up knowing the importance of family honour and tradition, but she has a real fire inside, a Latino fire which her young spirit ignites when she becomes enamoured by the rich opportunities of America.

What do you personally like most about West Side Story? It’s a story as old as time. It’s one of those shows where you wouldn’t even need to understand the language, to understand the story. It’s a world famous Shakespearean tale, rewritten into the most relatable contexts by Arthur Laurents, with the added genius from Stephen Sondheim who is one of the best lyric writers to dominate the musical theatre scene, and a score written by one of the best composers to have come out of the 20th century, Leonard Bernstein. What’s not to like?

Do you have any favourite moments from the show? My guilty pleasure has to be the scene where Tony and Maria recite wedding vows. As a young girl I would prance around the house with whatever bit of material I could find in my mum’s sewing drawer and pretend to use it as a veil. There is definitely an element of myself enjoying the make-believe of it all, when Maria is all giddy in that scene – it’s probably just me being me! But really, the star of this show has to be Luke Leahy, his performance of Riff has me mesmorised! Anything he does in the show I’m totally engrossed by!

Are there any other iconic musical theatre characters you would love to play? Oh hundreds! Can I give you a list or do I have to choose one? A few dream roles would have to be Maria (The Sound of Music), Christine (Phantom of the Opera), Mabel (Mack and Mabel), Glinda (Wicked), Calamity Jane, I could go on…

What’s next in store for you? Auditions, auditions, auditions!  Once the show is over I can start preparing for new auditions for various shows and pieces. I’ve got a few recording projects with a really fantastic studio in the pipeline, so watch this space!

By Emma Clarendon

As well as the production itself, Director Toby Hine, Musical Director Ben Ferguson, Choreography Supervisor Guy Salim, Costume Designer Stewart Charlesworth and Associate MD Ashley Jacobs will be doing a very special Pre-Show Talk with writer and broadcaster Christopher Cook on Saturday 30 June from 6pm – 6.45pm. They will share insights on how they brought the iconic musical to life and why it’s so important to keep reinterpreting classic productions to make them relevant to each new generation of audiences. There will also be a special performance by Charlotte Vaughan of a song that was cut from the original production went to Broadway, so that will be a real treat for fans of Bernstein and West Side Story alike.

Tickets are £5 and can be booked via: http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/event/1055/West-Side-Story-Pre-Show-Talk?&Keyword=&TypeID

West Side Story continues to play at the Bishopsgate Institute until the 1st July.

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