In looking to cast the role of Anybodys for the current national tour of “West Side Story,” the producers were looking for experienced candidates from a large field of hopefuls. However, what ultimately guided their final selection was the self-assuredness of 21-year-old actress, singer and dancer Alexandra Frohlinger, a recent graduate from the Boston Conservatory.
In an almost routine fashion and over one the course of just one weekend, Frohlinger went from graduating from college on a Friday to joining the start of the professional touring company on Monday.
“I’m living my dream,” confesses the diminutive five-foot tall, perky brunette, who was born in the small Jewish community of Winnipeg in the Canadian province of Manitoba. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to be playing a principal role in a Broadway national tour.”
There is little doubt that talent had much to do with her securing the role, but for a young woman of limited years, Frohlinger’s experience also impressed producers.
Because she was the smallest child in her class at school, Frohlinger’s parents had decided to build her confidence and self-esteem through dance and enrolled her at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School at the tender age of five. For six years she trained solely as a dancer, eventually learning and becoming proficient in classical ballet, tap and jazz.
Wanting her to expand her horizons even further, Frohlinger's mother encouraged her to try her hand at musical theatre in a local Winnipeg JCC production of Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!” At 11 she auditioned for and got the starring role of Oliver.
From that point on she was bitten by the acting bug and began to take private lessons in voice and acting to reinforce her already formidable dancing acuity. Today she considers herself a musical theatre “triple threat”: a singer, actress and dancer.
Frohlinger’s local career took an unexpected dramatic turn in 2007 when she was selected as one of 12 finalists on “Triple Sensation,” a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV program similar to “American Idol.” Judges who included composer Marvin Hamlisch pared down the 12 after three weeks of intense training in acting, singing and dancing from master class instructors. Although she did not make it to the final slate of finalists, Frohlinger considers the show a wonderful learning opportunity.
“Nobody could afford to buy that kind of experience,” she boasts. “It was really awesome and the level of expertise was unbelievable.”
In concert with her TV success, she became a member of Canadian Actors Equity, which has reciprocity privileges with the American Actors Equity.
Despite conventional thinking, Frohlinger believes typecasting has been very beneficial for her young career. As a matter of fact, she played the role of Anybodys in a Boston Conservatory production of “West Side Story” three years ago. “Everybody is a character type,” she explains. “Getting typecast is the best thing that can happen to you because you get to know yourself better.”
Having previously played the role gave her an enormous boost of self-confidence during the arduous path of auditioning for the national tour of “West Side Story.” She noticed the online call for the auditions in New York while finishing her senior year in Boston. Fortuitously, Frohlinger arranged a short $15 bus trip over her spring break for the first of what turned out to be a series of callbacks.
“I knew going in that I was correct for the role of Anybodys. You really have to know that for yourself and that your hunch is, in fact, correct,” she continues.
The national tour of the Leonard Bernstein musical with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim was re-envisioned by two-time Tony librettist Arthur Laurents, who directed the new production with Spanish dialog inserted in key scenes for the members of the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang that is at odds with the Jets.
Performances will continue through April and Frohlinger is nothing short of ecstatic as she gets to perform as Anybodys in front of audiences, touring all of the North American cities like New Orleans she has never visited before.
Once the national tour ends she looks forward to being challenged in a number of ways in the future. “I just want to be artistically fulfilled. I would love to be on Broadway or in a film and I want to feel like I can use all of my training,” she beams.
"West Side Story" begins its five-day run at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts tonight with performances slated for 8:00 p.m. through Saturday. Matinees for Saturday and Sunday run at 2:00 p.m., while the final evening performance is set for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. For tickets call 800-982-ARTS or click here. Group ticket sales can be arranged by calling 504-287-0372.