October 24-November 5, 2006

At the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts


Nineteen Year Old Stephanie Iannarino Stars as the beautiful MARIA


HOUSTON, TEXAS...Something's coming, something good!  Kicking off its 2006-2007 "Really Big" Season, Theatre Under The Stars produces the Tony Award-winning musical, West Side Story, from October 24-November 5, 2006 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby at Walker).  With music by the legendary creative team of Arthur Laurents (librettist), Leonard Bernstein (composer) and Stephen Sondheim (lyricist), West Side Story features some of Broadway's most beloved music including, "Somewhere," "One Hand, One Heart," "Tonight," "America" and "Maria."  In addition to winning two Tony Awards and the Academy Award for Best Picture, West Side Story became one of the most successful shows ever produced on Broadway. 

 Created in 1949, the magnificent musical, West Side Story, would set a standard for modern musicals that remains unsurpassed today.  Choreographer Jerome Robbins developed a concept for a musical, modern telling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where the young lovers were lower East Side dwellers with their families in religious conflict.  After years of delays, East Side Story became West Side Story and the conflict became racial versus religious.  The New York Times in 1957 called "the finest achievement of the musical stage" for that year. 

 Alan Johnson, returns to TUTS to direct and choreograph the energetic and widely acclaimed, West Side Story.  Johnson, who appeared in West Side Story on Broadway, was chosen by the estate of original choreographer, Jerome Robbins, to re-create Robbins' original direction and choreography.  In addition to recreating West Side Story productions all over the world, Johnson has also worked extensively with Mel Brooks, including directing the film To Be Or Not To Be and choreographing the musical sequences in such films as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and The History of the World, Part II.  Recently, Johnson choreographed a popular Gap commercial.

Broadway's Max von Essen will star as Tony in TUTS' production of West Side Story. Recently, von Essen was seen in Mame at the Kennedy Center and Off-Broadway in Finian's Rainbow and The Baker's Wife at Paper Mill Playhouse.  Joining von Essen in the principal cast are Stephanie Iannarino (Maria), who is making her TUTS stage debut; Vivian Nixon (Anita), who protrayed Kalimba on Broadway in Hot Feet; Leo Ash Evens (Riff); who appeared in the National Tour of Disney's On The Record; Wilson Mendieta (Bernardo), whose Broadway credits include Bombay Dreams and Man of La Mancha; Christpher Sergeeff (Chino), who appeared in the National tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Kurt Domoney (Action), who has been seen in TUTS' Funny Girl and Anything Goes; DJ Chase (A-Rab), who was seen in the International and National Tours of West Side Story; Josh Montgomery (Baby John), who was recently seen in the regional tour of A Chorus Line; Logan Keslar (Big Deal), who was seen in TUTS' Cats and A Chorus Line; Clark Johnsen (Snowboy), who was seen on Broadway in La Cage Aux Folles; Stephanie Fritto (Anybodys), whose credits include the National Tours of Hairspray and Carousel; Steve Luker (Lt. Schrank), who has been seen in more than 75 shows including Broadway's 42nd Street; Bob Bouchard (Officer Krupke), who previously appeared on Broadway in The Lion King;



Rutherfiord Cravens (Doc), who has appeared in numerous productions at TUTS, Stages Repertory Theatre and Main Street Theatre; and David R. Wald (Gladhand), who is making his TUTS stage debut.  Joining the ensemble cast are Jay Be, Shane Braddock, Shelby Braxton-Brooks, Amy Brewer, Joseph Corella, Carolyn Doherty, Billy Fagen, David Guggino, Leon Le, Kat Nejat, Tom Pacio, Jose-Manuel Santos, Felicity Stiverson, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Becca Tobin, Vanessa Van Vrancken and Shontč Walker. 

In addition to Johnson, the creative team will also include Janice Aubrey as Music Director and Joshua Bergasse as Assistant.  Richard Winkler will provide Lighting Design, while Christopher "Kit" Bond provides Sound Design.  John Farrell will serve as Scenic Consultant. 

 Single tickets for TUTS' production of West Side Story ($27-$87) are available to the public by phone at (713) 558-8887 or outside the Houston area at (888) 558-3882; or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office, (800 Bagby at Walker, Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm); or on-line at Audio described performances are available November 5 at 2 p.m.; open captioning November 5 at 7:30 p.m.  Wheelchair accessible.  Student and Senior (60+) discounted tickets available one hour before performance.  Group discounts available for 15 or more and may be purchased by calling (713) 558-8888.

 TUTS 2006-2007 "Really Big" Season is sponsored by Stanford Private Wealth Management.  Sponsors of TUTS' production of West Side Story include Total, Chase, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Ballard Exploration Company, Inc.  Air transportation is provided by Continental Airlines, the official airline of Theatre Under The Stars.  Media sponsors are ABC-13 and Houston Chronicle.

Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) was founded in 1968 by Frank M. Young.   TUTS was the first theatrical organization in Houston to perform free to the public at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, and is the only Houston arts organization that has performed there free to the public every year since the building opened.  Since its founding, TUTS has produced more than 275 musicals including many local, national and world premieres and is currently represented on Broadway with Beauty and the Beast.  TUTS is also noted for mounting many International tours, including Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Juliette Prowse in Mame, Robert Goulet in Man of La Mancha and the Tony Award-winning revival of Carousel.  As a way to continue the tradition of musical theatre, TUTS' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre provides instruction and stage experience for more than 1,700 students annually.  Now housed in the new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, TUTS also annually presents the Tommy Tune Awards, honoring the best and brightest in Houston's high school musical theatre programs.






Interview with Stephanie Iannarino

Who Stars as MARIA in TUTSí Production of West Side Story


By Theresa Pisula

October 21, 2006



STEPHANIE IANNARINO (Maria) is thrilled to be making her TUTS debut.  Other favorites include A Little Night Music (Petra), West Side Story (Maria), Parental Consent (Katie), How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, Vile Affections.  She wants to express her many thanks to agent Nancy Carson, Bob Marks, Richard Barrett, Jeannie LoVetri, Ann Ratray, to the best family anyone could ever ask for, and her parents for their constant love, support, and encouragement to follow her dreams.

Theresa:  Tell us about the part that youíre playing.

Stephanie:  Maria is a girl from Puerto Rico and her brother Bernardo has brought her to the U.S. to marry one of his friends.  And she wants to live life, she wants to experience things and she meets this guy named Tony.  And itís love at first sight.  And the show is about their relationship.  Itís also about hate and prejudice between 2 gangs, the Sharks and the Jets in 1950ís New York City and stuff that weíre dealing about today.

Theresa:  You are now playing the part of MARIA that Natalie Wood played in the movie.  I grew up watching that movie and wishing I could be Maria.  So, in essence, you are living every little girlís dream.

Stephanie:  I am living that dream.  I love Maria partly because sheís not just a typical ingťnue, she has guts, sheís brave, sheís strong and you know sheís a real girl.  And I think that every girl can relate to her.  Every girl wants to fall in love for the first time.  Maria is a real girl that has real emotions and thatís what I really like about her. 

Theresa:  How many times have you seen the movie West Side Story?

Stephanie:  Oh, oh goodness.  Well, I did this show in High School so I watched it a lot.  Probably like a hundred times or something like that.  But I havenít watched it as much this time around Ďcause I wanted my own portrayal instead of being compared to Natalie Wood.  I love her portrayal.  But each person wants to put their little spin on the character.

Theresa:  I hope you donít mind me asking but how old are you?

Stephanie:  Iím 19 years old.

Theresa:  Oh my gosh, youíre a baby!

Stephanie:  Iíll be 20 on October 29th and Iím gonna have my birthday down here and itís gonna be a lot of fun.

Theresa:  Then you just got out of high school!

Stephanie:  I just got out of high school last year and this is my first professional job.

Theresa:  This is so exciting for you!

Stephanie:  Itís very, very exciting.  Itís a dream come true.

Theresa:  Okay, letís start from the beginning.  Where were you born?

Stephanie:  I was born in Columbus, Ohio.  I grew up in Columbus and I went to a college preparatory high school that was very strongly academically based.  I didnít go to a performing arts high school.  And then in my senior year, I was applying to conservatories for opera.  And college is really expensive and so I did a local beauty pageant for scholarship money.  I ended up winning the pageant even though Iíve never done a pageant before.  Iím not really a pageant girl at all.  But the woman I met at the pageant interviewed me for the Carson Adler Agency in New York City and got me an appointment with Nancy Carson.  When I was auditioning for one of the colleges in New York, I went and met with Nancy and she said that I wouldnít get anything right away but I had the ability to do this professionally. 

Theresa:  As far as singing?

Stephanie:  As far as singing, dancing and acting in musical theatre.

Theresa:  Wow.  When did you actually start singing?

Stephanie:  I started singing when I was 9 years old.  Just for family and friends, for school and talent shows and little school plays.  I actually started off more as a dancer when I was 5, I started out dancing.  Thatís when the bug bit me.

Theresa:  What type of dancing?

Stephanie:  Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical Pointe.  But I was actually injured when I was in high school.  I was always able to sing and dance, but when I was injured that led me more in the direction of voice and especially because my voice is a little bit more classically based anyway.  So thatís why I was going towards opera but I decided to go to Musical Theatre. 

Theresa:  So, from Ohio, when did you come to New York?

Stephanie:  I came to New York a year ago.  When I was 18 I was signed by the agency right out of high school.  So I moved to the city and started auditioning. 

Theresa:  How do you like living in New York?

Stephanie:  I love it!  Itís a great city.  I just visited there a lot when I was young.  Iíve always known I want to end up there.  But I didnít know exactly if I was going to be doing Opera or Musical Theatre or what it was going to be.  And I love the city Ė love it!

Theresa:  Where do you usually hang out?

Stephanie: (Laughs) Iím more of a home-body.  Iím a dork.  In the past year, Iíve had to stay really focused.  And Iíve met people and stuff like that.  But Iím the type of girl who enjoys just watching a movie and getting ice cream.

Theresa:  Did you start getting jobs right away?

Stephanie:  No.  I had booked a national tour, becauseÖitís funny, when I got this job (as Maria in TUTSí West Side Story) I was planning on going on the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Iíve already signed the contract and I was ready to do it.  And then I got this job so I had to turn the tour down.  West Side Story is so much more of a better opportunity.

Theresa:  How did you get this role?

Stephanie:  I got West Side Story in New York when the agent called me to say that I had an audition.  And I had a couple of call backs, they had me singing and reading.  I didnít find out until 2Ĺ to 3 weeks later that I had gotten the job. 

Theresa:  So, what does it feel like to be in this major production?

Stephanie:  It feels amazing.  I have a really great, supportive cast.  Itís been wonderful and everybodyís been patient.  Theyíre absolutely fantastic.  The director and choreographer (Alan Johnson) is amazing.  Weíre using all the original Jerome Robbins choreography which is a lot of fun.



I Feel Pretty

I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty,
I feel pretty and witty and bright!
And I pity any girl who isn't me tonight.

I feel charming, oh, so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel!
And so pretty that I hardly can believe I'm real.

See the pretty girl in that mirror there:
Who can that attractive girl be?
Such a pretty face,
Such a pretty dress,
Such a pretty smile,
Such a pretty me!

I feel stunning and entrancing,
Feel like running and dancing for joy,
For I'm loved by a pretty wonderful boy!



Stephanie:  Itís just been an amazing experience.  Itís fun because I discover new things every day.  And itís a classic!  Nothing is set in stone so itís new every time you do it.

Theresa:  Who are your most favorite actors?

Stephanie:  I love Merryl Streep.  Sheís one of my favorites.  Male-wise, Robert De Niro is amazing.

 Theresa:  How do you like Houston so far?

Stephanie:  I love it.  This is a great city.  The Galleria is amazing.  I love shopping (laughs) and the Galleria is wonderful.  I havenít seen too much of it because Iíve been rehearsing a lot but itís great. 

Theresa:  Have your parents been supportive of your chosen career?

Stephanie:  Oh yes, my parents are.  I was actually the one saying, I should go to college.  And they were the ones saying, ďYou have to do this.Ē  So the roles were kind of reversed.  I was the one that was a little bit apprehensive. 

Theresa:  Really?

Stephanie:  Yes.  I was planning on going to college and doing the traditional thing, but then I had this opportunity that I just couldnít say no.  But my parents have always known Iíve wanted to perform and once this opportunity came up, it was like everything just came into place.  I was a little scared but they said, ďThis happened.  This is what youíve always dreamed of.  Go for it.Ē  And they were 100% supportive and they still are today.

Theresa:  How is your family dealing with your new career?

Stephanie:  Iím an only child.  My father, a couple of months after I moved to New York City was diagnosed with Leukemia.  And even though I wanted to go back, he said ďStay in New York and follow your dreams.Ē  He just went through a bone marrow transplant and heís going to be able to be here for the Opening Night.

Theresa:  Awesome!

Stephanie:  You know, I have a really big Italian family and everybodyís always there for each other.  So, I knew that even though I live in New York City, I had a lot of family that could be there practically for them.  Iím really close to my parents and I talk to them everyday. 

Theresa:  Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Stephanie:  You know what?  I think itís just one of those things that you just have to do the best you can, work as hard as you can and take the opportunities that come your way.  I would love to you knowÖevery little girl dreams of being on Broadway and winning a Tony award.  But I canít say.  Whatever comes my way, I just want to pursue this career and be the very best performer that I can be. 

Theresa:  Congratulations for being able to live your dream and Iím sure youíre going to have a very bright future.

Stephanie:  Iím so honored to be a part of this production.  Sometimes, itís like ďOh my gosh, I canít believe they hired me.Ē  I mean, really honored and to work with Alan Johnson, the director and Max von Essen (who plays Tony) and Vivian Nixon (Anita).  Everybody is so nice and so great.  Theyíve made me feel really comfortable. 

Theresa:  What would you like to say to the Houston Theatre going audience?

Stephanie:  Come see the show, itís great.  The cast is wonderful.  The direction has been wonderful and awesome.  Itís a great show.  West Side Story is a classic.  If youíre going to see a musical especially if itís for the first time you see a musical, West Side Story is probably the best way to start.