by Kristen Hirsch Montag
The Ordway in Saint Paul opens WEST SIDE STORY April 6 with a cast of mostly local performers, including phenom Tyler Michaels as Tony.
His on-stage love interest is played by Evy Ortiz (Maria), who is a vocal match for his well-known pipes. The two make beautiful music together as the star-crossed lovers from the well-worn musical by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim. The production is visually appealing, well cast and the orchestra, led by local conductor Raymond Berg, is pitch perfect. The choreography (Diane Laurenson) is recreated or at least heavily influenced from the original stage version by the looks of it so this show is everything traditionalists will want from it.
Ortiz took a moment from rehearsals this week to respond to 6 Questions & a Plug. Learn more about this lovely actor/singer and get your tickets to WEST SIDE STORY before they're all gone.
You've been in numerous productions of WEST SIDE STORY previously; what brought you out to Saint Paul to do it again?
I've been very fortunate to play this beautiful role a few times, and I've worked with this director and choreographer (Bob Richard and Diane Laurenson) before. He asked me to come audition for the Ordway team and after that they offered me the part!
WEST SIDE STORY has been around for 60 years. How relevant is the show today for you, and is there anything different or unique about this production?
I think this show will always be relevant because different cultures will always exist and with that comes fear of the unknown. This show is about love trying to overcome bigotry and hate, and ultimately two people who see past their different cultures. I have a personal connection to the story because my grandparents came to NYC from Puerto Rico in the 1950s and they dealt with racism and the struggle to find success among people who don't welcome you.
What is your favorite number in the show and why?
My favorite number used to be the balcony scene between Tony and Maria, because musically it's just perfect to sing and it's always fun. But in this production I'm really enjoying "I Feel Pretty." Lots of times it's just viewed as a cute uptempo number but its really about that intoxicating feeling of new love. And Maria's love for Tony is a one-of-a-kind love, not just teenage hormones. Right after this song I find out what's happened at the rumble so I have to go from feeling extreme happiness to extreme devastation in a moment.
What do you think of the Ordway and Saint Paul -- have you been here previously?
I've never been to either before. The Ordway is a beautiful theater! I can't wait to have an audience in there. The entire team at the Ordway has been wonderful to work with. Saint Paul is lovely, and once the show is running I'll have more time to explore.
You have an impressive biography (see below) between your performances and degrees. What brought you to a career in musical theatre?
Since I was a kid I loved to perform. I was part of a dance and acting troupe as a kid and then in college I studied drama. I had also always loved to sing so I began to study voice and fell in love with opera. But I was torn between which direction to go and musical theater was a way to combine my love of acting and singing.
What is the role you would most like to take on in the future, and why?
There are so many it's hard to pick just one. I have a long list of roles I want to play. Christine in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and Glinda in WICKED are two of my dream roles. I really want to take on Eliza in MY FAIR LADY. I have a quirky personality and love physical comedy, and sometimes I have to dampen those qualities to play the traditional ingenue roles. But Eliza is quirky, changes physically throughout the show and gets to sing glorious high notes. That combination is a dream.
What is next for you after Maria and WEST SIDE STORY?
I have a couple of concerts in NY and I'm still waiting to hear what the next show will be. Maybe one of those dream roles!
More about Evy Ortiz: First National Broadway Tour (recent Broadway revival) West Side Story (also Canada & Japan debut); Off-Broadway: Jerry Orbach Theater, The Fantasticks (dir. by Tom Jones); North Shore Music Theatre: West Side Story; Theatre By The Sea: West Side Story, A Funny Thing...Forum; Other NY theatre: The Seagull, Romeo and Juliet; Film/TV: One Life to Live, Lost Revolution; Recordings: Fame Forever- Talent Springs Eternal; Concerts: Inside Broadway, Stages of Love, West Point Band Holiday Show; Training: Lyric coloratura classical training, Bachelor's degree in Theater from Pace University, Master's degree in Vocal Performance from New York University. Member of Actors' Equity.
WEST SIDE STORY plays at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in Saint Paul through April 16. Tickets and details are at ordway.org/event/west-side-story.