BY JANET MANDELSTAM
When the actors playing Maria and Tony, the star-crossed lovers of West Side Story, arrive in Bloomington for the Cardinal Stage Company production of the musical, they will meet each other and director Randy White for the first time.
Deborah Apodaca and Daniel Lopez were chosen for their roles in the show, opening June 16, after a nationwide search.
“Casting at Cardinal is an art form,” says White. “We looked locally first and saw 150 people. Then we looked at Indianapolis and Chicago, and finally the country.”
Apodaca, in Southern California, and Lopez, in Brooklyn, saw the casting call on the website backstage.com and were among more than 100 hopefuls who sent videos to Cardinal Stage.
“With Tony and Maria, it always comes down to the singing,” White says. His choices have been singing most of their lives.
Apodaca, 30, says, “Seeing the movie version of West Side Story was one of the first things that drew me to musical theater. I said, ‘I can do a show like that; I can sing these songs.’” She studied voice at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, and has been singing in competitive choirs for the past decade. Before heading to Bloomington in May for rehearsals, Apodaca will appear in a production of The Pajama Game in Pasadena, California. She has performed in West Side Story before, but as Anita, the second female lead.
Lopez, 27, says he “grew up acting” in Athens, Ohio. He entered college planning to focus on musical theater, but a voice teacher suggested he look into opera. He made the switch, earned a graduate degree in opera performance at the University of Wisconsin, and was a resident artist at the Indianapolis Opera in 2015 while also continuing to act. About West Side Story, he says, “The music is beautiful, the story is beautiful, and Tony is a character I love. I’m excited to have the chance to play him.”
White, Cardinal Stage’s founder who will be moving to Chicago after this season, calls West Side Story his last hurrah. “It’s a remarkable piece, and I really wanted to do it before I go,” he says. “The show requires dancers, singers, and actors—a triple threat—so I have the opportunity to work with Diane Buzzell as choreographer and Sue Swaney as music director.”
The show will run from June 16 to 25 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.