Elizabeth Edel ’16 will star as Maria in the Upper School production of “West Side Story” in November.
“She’s great,” co-director Michele Speares said. “I think she’s amazing. I think she has one of the strongest voices, and she can sing. The score is crazy, complicated and challenging. She can sing it without batting an eye.”
It was bittersweet for herwhen she heard that “West Side Story” would be the fall musical this year. She had dreamed of playing Maria ever since she watched the movie.
“She’s amazing,” co-director Ted Walch said. “She’s got a kind of feisty energy that I like for the character of Maria.”
This year, in her sixth and final musical at Harvard-Westlake, her dream will come true.
“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to be Maria,” Edel said. “I was super familiar with the part before, and it is super exciting to have this role because it’s been a dream of mine for a really long time.”
Because Edel trains classically outside of school and sings opera, she considers Maria to be a perfect role for her because “West Side Story” is often considered more of an opera than a musical.
Not only is the music challenging, but Edel must also build up her stamina and work on matching her acting skills to her singing skills.
However, Edel said she is up for the challenge.
“I’m never happier than when I’m stressed because of a musical,” Edel said.
The musical also means a lot to her this year because it is her last one at Harvard-Westlake.
“For me, especially just because the future is super uncertain and unclear, it is possible that this is my last musical ever,” Edel said. “It makes me put a lot of pressure on myself because, obviously, if it’s my last, I want it to be my best.”
The performance is also special to Edel because it will be her last of many performances alongside Adam Yaron ’16, who plays Tony.
“It’s really crazy to think that this is our last-ever musical together, and our relationship in it is so close that it just fosters this feeling of ‘it’s our last, but it’s going to be our best’ and a lot of general excitement going into it,” Edel said.
Edel said she is excited because the group of performers is more diverse than ever and will include many first-time performers, including four baseball players.
Coming into rehearsals, she was concerned that some of the new performers wouldn’t be as excited.
Edel said she has been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and dedication they have all shown.
“[Musicals] don’t get all the recognition that some sports teams get, and that’s totally understandable,” Edel said. “But with this new cast, it’s all coming together because [the athletes] see how much it means to us, and it has become something that means so much to them as well.”
Before every performance, Edel separates herself from the cast and takes time to get into the mentality of her character. She does this so she can grow and progress authentically throughout the performance.
“It’s just amazing to think that something you have done may have changed somebody’s thoughts or made them feel something,” Edel said. “As a performer, my goal every time I perform is to make my audience leave with some sort of new perspective or having felt something different or having been affected in some way by the words or the music or the performances in the show, and that’s what’s most rewarding.”
Edel hopes that her family, including her sister, who has never seen one of her school musicals before, will be able to attend the musical.
Her sister has lived outside of California since Edel began at Harvard-Westlake and plans to take time off of work and fly in from New York to watch her performance.
In the future, Edel hopes to continue what she has been doing throughout high school.
She also hopes to attend a college that allows her to double major in vocal music and something in the liberal arts or sciences.