When Arthur Laurents decided to revive WEST SIDE STORY, one of his challenges was finding a new cast. Now famously, after being dissatisfied with any number of would-be Marias, Laurents was steered to a YouTube video of a young Argentinian performer, Josefina Scaglione. One Outer Critics Circle Award and one Tony nomination later, she's performing in Lancaster with PRiMA Theatre in a concert of the music from WEST SIDE STORY and learning about Central Pennsylvania.
MR: Hello, and welcome to Lancaster. Are you familiar with it? Have you been here before?
JS: I was never here before. It's beautiful and everyone is so welcoming. I've enjoyed some walking in town. It has a lot of stories, and it's so open-air, not like New York.
MR: But you're not a stranger to Pennsylvania, are you? What's the connection?
JS: I've been in Pittsburgh. I did a summer dance program in Pittsburgh at Point Park College in my teens. Pittsburgh is much more urban than Lancaster.
MR: You were involved in musical theatre in Argentina.
JS: I was in HAIRSPRAY [as Amber von Tussle – MR] among other shows. I did ANNIE when I was younger. We have a theatre district in Buenos Aires, the Avenida Corrientes, that's our Broadway equivalent.
MR: Musical theatre, though, is such a uniquely North American art form. What attracted you to it?
JS: I always acted at home; I performed with my cousins when we were young. Musical theatre has been growing in Latin America considerably. Many shows are coming to Argentina now. But when I was ten, people were just discovering it. I liked the singing, the dancing, the whole combination.
MR: And then you wound up in WEST SIDE STORY through YouTube – can you explain the story?
JS: I was performing in HAIRSPRAY, and I'd just gotten Christine in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in Buenos Aires. Arthur Laurents was casting at the time and was sent to my YouTube video, which had been up for a while, and I got contacted for an audition. They flew me to New York.
MR: When Laurents contacted you, did you know who he was?
JS: Yes, but I didn't really know until I got to work with him and got to see who he was. And then it was, "Oh, damn, I'm auditioning for Arthur Laurents!" But not really realizing it up front kept me from being nervous.
MR: Did the history of the show and the performers who have worked in it make you nervous?
JS: Not really. I was familiar with the music, of course, but the show is so American that we didn't know it and we weren't really familiar with its history in Argentina.
MR: What musical theatre starts do you particularly admire? Are any of them role models for you?
JS: I really admire Patti LuPone. Audra McDonald. And Elena Roger, who's playing Evita, who's also from Argentina.
MR: Who would you like to be performing with now – do you have any dream cast mates?
JS: No; I'm open to new casts and new people.
MR: So are there any dream shows for you?
JS: Yes. I would love to play Sally Bowles in CABARET or Roxie in CHICAGO. They're fun parts and strong characters.
MR: And you're also trained in opera?
JS: Yes. I'm not only a Broadway performer. I love singing in all forms.
MR: If you were working on other stage work than musical theatre, would it be opera or straight drama?
JS: I would love to do drama. I'd also like to do opera eventually. I've done television and I'm interested in films, but the stage is where my heart really is.
MR: Is there more television on the horizon, or any film work?
JS: Certainly; there are a number of auditions going on right now.
MR: How about stage work?
JS: I'm reading for another musical, but it's not happening soon
MR: New York or Buenos Aires?
JS: I prefer them both, for different reasons, Emotionally, it's Buenos Aires, for ever and ever. But New York is fun.
MR: I know we're talking on your rehearsal break – do you have any final words for Central Pennsylvania readers?
JS: Yes. I'm looking forward to these shows. I'm so grateful to PriMA and its management and staff for having me in Lancaster. This is such an amazing group to work with, and it's going to be great.
THE MUSIC OF WEST SIDE STORY will be performed September 9 and 16 at Millersville University Ware Center in downtown Lancaster. For tickets, call 717-327-5124 or visit www.primatheatre.com.