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Howell grad ready for ‘West Side Story’ tour

Staff Writer

MARLBORO — Like many aspiring entertainers, Melanie Wildman knows how it feels to dance, sing and act her way through a demanding audition process, only to be let go at the final moment.

But when Wildman, who is a Boston Conservatory freshman, boards a plane destined for Berlin, Germany, in May to perform in an international tour of the musical “West Side Story,” those close calls will be mere memories.

As the youngest member of the cast, Wildman, 18, a musical theater major, will play the role of a Jet Girl in the production.

Jet Girls are the female counterparts of the Jets, one of two teenage street gangs in the story, which is set in New York City during the mid-1950s.

The gig, which is run by Sundance Productions and BB Promotion GmbH, will lead Wildman to at least 15 cities in Europe andAsia throughout the next year, she said. Wildman added that the number of cities she visits could change, depending on performances that are not yet scheduled and the likely possibility of time extensions.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m also really excited. I’ve never been in this type of environment,” Wildman said of the adventures that lie ahead. “I’m excited to learn a lot about the different countries I’ll visit.”

Her excursion will include a four-week rehearsal period in Berlin, a 10-week stint in Paris during the holiday season and time spent in Bangkok, Thailand, said Wildman, who has been a resident of Marlboro for more than a decade.

Although the young performer said she is excited to experience the culture of each city, she faces a heavy workload.

“After [the rehearsal period], we do about eight shows a week,” Wildman said, adding that her ensemble role requires a combination of acting, singing and dancing.

The road to her newfound success was paved with three intense rounds of trials, said Wildman, who is a graduate of the Freehold Regional High School District’s Fine and Performing Arts Academy at Howell High School.

“It was pretty grueling compared to other auditions,” she said. “The director was very hard on us. He would yell and scream to make us go all-out and he really looked at us all individually.”

After a few weeks, Wildman received the news that she had earned a spot in the upcoming version of the American classic, which is based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” she said.

“I didn’t feel like it was actually happening,” Wildman said.

On top of her regular duties as a Jet Girl, she is also the understudy for the role of Anybodys, the play’s tomboy, Wildman said.

If she is called upon to fill the position, it will not be the first time Wildman has played the role. She said she portrayed Anybodys as a freshman in her high school’s production of the musical.

“It’s kind of a full circle. This was one of the first major shows I ever did.” Wildman said. “It was really the first show I ever was a part of. It has a special place in my heart.”

The young woman’s father, Mike Wildman, said that initial performance stimulated his daughter’s love for musical theater.

“WhenMelanie got her first role as Anybodys in ‘West Side Story,’ that’s when she really got the bug,” Wildman said. “It be- came clear it was about the whole package of singing, dancing and acting — the triple threat.”

Boston Conservatory administrators are accommodating to students who venture off to join similar tours, Wildman said. She said she has the department head’s permission to return to the school when her time with the production comes to an end.

After earning a degree, Wildman said, she hopes to one day bring her talents to Broadway.

And she also said she plans to muster up the courage to scarf down some escargot while in France.
Tags: 2012-2013 int'l tour, anybodys, the jets
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